The windows of many cars and buildings often are tinted with a film that shuts out unnecessary sunlight, an energy efficiency measure that helps lower heating and cooling costs. Other types of environmentally friendly windows feature a coating of see-through solar cells that transform the windows into mini generators of electricity.
ECO WATCH -- But you probably won't find any windows anywhere that can do both. Not yet anyway.
This could be about to change. Chinese scientists have invented a new material that can both block the sun and produce power. They predict that windows outfitted with this product—or even window curtains that have it—eventually could cut the average household's electric bills by half or more.
"We combine both material innovation and optical thin film design to achieve the goal of combining both solar electricity generation and heat insulation in one single film," said Hin-Lap (Angus) Yip, a professor of materials science and engineering at the South China University of Technology. "Our energy efficiency for the house is kind of double: power generation and power saving."
Constructing a prototype that could simultaneously make electricity and prevent excessive heat required the scientists—who also included Fei Huang, also of South China University—to perform a balancing act between harvesting light to make electricity and blocking it, mixing and matching from among a variety of materials and chemical compounds to find exactly the right working combination.
Eventually, they designed a product that allowed visible portions of sunlight to pass through, but rejected infrared light, which is "a major heating culprit," Yip said. The researchers then transformed the near-infrared region in-between into an electric current.
"The major material we used for turning the solar light to electricity was a polymer semiconductor," Yip said. "We can design the chemical structure and tune [its] absorption property. This organic material has very unique absorption property, which can selectively absorb the near-infrared light, [but] allow a major portion of visible light to pass through it, making it a perfect material for semitransparent photovoltaic (PV) window application."
Current solar cell technology based on silicon or other inorganic semiconductors is not suitable for photovoltaic window applications "as they are opaque and dull in appearance," he added. "Instead, we can make organic photovoltaics into semi-transparent, lightweight and colorful films that are perfect for turning windows into electricity generators and heat insulators."
A paper describing the research appears in the journal Joule.
Yip said the material was similar to the pigment used in printing newspapers or coating cars, "but more functional," he said.
Actually, we can manufacture the polymer solar cell on flexible substrate using roll-to-roll printing process, just like the way we print our newspaper. If you compare this to the energy intensive process required for the production of silicon solar cells, the production of polymer solar cells consumes less energy, with a lower carbon footprint.
The material has a number of potential applications. Because it's a flexible and roll-able film, Yip thinks it would make a great window curtain. "Nowadays, many curtains are controlled electrically to open and shut, and since our photovoltaic window film will generate electricity, the same electrical circuit can be used to carry out the power, which can be then directly used or stored to power other facilities in the house," he said.
He also sees their value for use in self-powered greenhouses. "It just requires tailoring the optical property of the photovoltaic window film, as plants mainly absorb blue and red light, which is why they are green," he said. "So the design of the photovoltaic window film for greenhouse applications will have to maximize the transmission of blue and red light. This is feasible through new material design and optical engineering."
The scientists estimate that installing windows with dual purpose electricity-generating and heat-insulating properties could reduce the average household's reliance on external electric sources by more than 50 percent, although this figure assumes that every square inch of every window would have panels made of multifunctional solar cells.
Yip pointed out that the researchers didn't even use "the best organic photovoltaics that are out there in this field," for their own research demonstration, he said. "Their efficiency is improving rapidly, and we expect to be able to continuously improve the performance of this unified solar-cell window film. Making heat-insulating multifunctional semitransparent polymer solar cells is just the beginning of exploring new applications of organic photovoltaics."
Yip said it would be easy to scale up the product for widespread use and—although it initially may be more expensive than traditional films—it could pay for itself fairly quickly. "We think that polymer based solar cells will have a much shorter energy payback time compared to inorganic photovoltaics, as they can be manufactured using low energy printing processes," he said.
"In terms of the cost of the film, since it has a very similar structure to current heat insulating film—but with just a few additional layers—I expect it will be slightly higher than current window film," he added. "But since its energy efficiency can be double, we believe the cost payback time will be very short, maybe within three to four years."
He projected that the materials could be in commercial use within five years.
"It's been about 25 years from the discovery of polymer solar cells until now," he said. "We've had some very nice progress improving the efficiency and stability of polymer solar cells. If we can identify the best materials and processes to scale up these photovoltaic technologies in the next few years, maybe we will be able to see them everywhere on their 30th anniversary."
On Thursday, July 19 The Hill reported that the Republican controlled Congress passed a non-binding resolution saying a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions "would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States."
ECO WATCH -- But the next Monday, a Republican duo introduced and co-sponsored the MARKET CHOICE Act (H.R. 6463)that would implement a carbon tax and funnel the proceeds towards improving infrastructure.
The two approaches, Time Magazine reported Thursday, could represent the past and future of the Republican party.
"The pendulum will swing," former Republican South Carolina congressman Bob Inglis, who heads the non-profit RepublicEn, which promotes conservative solutions for environmental problems, told Time. "And when that pendulum swings…it may just be the solution you don't want on climate."
The two congressmen who introduced and co-sponsored the carbon tax bill could be the beginning of that swing.
Carlos Curbelo, the Florida Representative who introduced the bill, represents a district stretching from Key West to outside Miami.
He has been a unique Republican voice on the reality and threat of climate change since he was first elected in 2014, according to Grist.
"I tell my skeptical colleagues: When my district is underwater, I'll move to their district and run against them," he told Grist. "That usually breaks the ice."
He formed the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus with fellow Floridian and Democratic Congressperson Ted Deutch, which is designed to have an even number of Republican and Democrat members.
As of now, Time reports it has 43 Republican members, even though many still vote against climate action despite claiming to believe in its necessity.
"We're seeing trends in the House that should give us all hope," Curbelo told Time.
The bill's co-sponsor, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voted in line with the environment 71 percent of the time in 2017 according to the League of Conservation Voters' scorecard, the highest percentage of any Congressional Republican, Grist reported.
One reason a carbon tax might be a gateway climate proposal for Republicans is that it is actually favored by companies who see climate policy as inevitable, and prefer a tax to more complicated regulations, Time explained.
On Wednesday, 34 major companies including BP America, Shell and General Motors wrote a letter to Curbelo thanking him for introducing the bill, though they did not endorse it outright.
"We believe that an economy-wide, market-based approach to valuing or pricing carbon, when carefully crafted, can both strengthen our economy and reduce carbon emissions by encouraging technological innovation and stimulating new investments in infrastructure, products, and services," the letter said.
Curbelo's current bill is not likely to pass, given the opinions of the rest of the Republican majority in Congress, but it might model a way forward for the party in the future. Time reported two polls by the Alliance of Market Solutions and the Pew Research Center respectively that showed that more than half of younger Republicans care about climate change and that almost 25 percent of people under 30 who identified as Republican in 2015 had since left the party.
However, Emilie Prattico, director of development at We Mean Business, a private-sector climate mobilization non-profit, cautioned in a Huffington Post opinion piece that carbon tax supporters could do better than Curbelo's bill.
While it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 27 to 32 percent by 2025 and 30 to 40 percent by 2030, its other provisions would not go far enough to adequately address climate change.
It would devote as much as 70 percent of generated revenue to updating existing fossil-fuel-based transportation infrastructure and only a small percent to developing carbon-free transport options and it would allow emitters a chance to perform their way out of having to obey Clean Air Act regulations if they followed the law.
"A successful carbon tax bill, whether it is proposed by Democrats, Republicans or both, would not only impose a levy on fossil fuels but steer the economy toward innovation, less-polluting alternatives for high-emitting sectors, and fairness to consumers and citizens," Prattico wrote.
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Deep-pocketed power companies outspent the solar industry nearly $3 to $1 as part of an intensive lobbying effort during an S.C. legislative session that included efforts to curb rooftop solar’s expansion in the state.
THE STATE -- Electric utilities spent nearly $523,000 from January through May to hire more than three dozen lobbyists to advocate for them at the State House as lawmakers decided what to do about solar incentives and a failed nuclear project.
Those utilities also poured more than $300,000 in contributions into state election campaigns through May of this year, largely to Republican incumbents, according to disclosure reports compiled by the National Institute on Money in Politics.
The solar industry, which saw the nuclear fiasco as an opportunity to expand its footprint in the state, was outspent badly and lost. It spent more than $177,000 to hire 11 lobbyists during the 2018 legislative session.
“Solar consumers are in a David versus Goliath battle with the big power monopolies,” said Matt Moore, chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition industry group.
But the traditional utilities and solar companies weren’t the only ones spending tens of thousands this year to try to influence legislators. The state’s electric cooperatives, trying to weigh in on the future of the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, spent almost $239,000 on 25 lobbyists.
Selling a deal
Cayce-based SCANA and its would-be acquirer, Dominion Energy of Virginia, account for most of the lobbying done by utilities in the most recent legislative session, which ended last month.
The two utilities have been engaged in a marketing campaign trying to win support from the public and legislators for Dominion’s proposed $14.6 billion buyout of SCANA. SCANA, the parent company of SCE&G, has taken heat for abandoning construction on two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County in July 2017 that have cost SCE&G customers $2 billion in higher rates so far and could cost billions more.
SCANA, with customers in the Midlands and Lowcountry, spent $111,782 and hired eight registered lobbyists for the legislative session. Dominion doubled its S.C. lobbying staff to 10, spending $120,500 during just the first five months of 2018 compared to more than $51,000 for all of last year.
Dominion spokesman Chet Wade said the increased lobbying expense was needed to educate lawmakers about why the proposed Dominion-SCANA merger “is the best solution for customers, the state and South Carolina’s long-term energy needs.”
“It’s a long conversation on complicated topics that takes a lot of education, and we will keep pursuing that outreach,” Wade said.
SCANA and Dominion also unsuccessfully lobbied lawmakers to keep them from cutting SCE&G’s electric rates. Dominion has said lawmakers, in passing that 15 percent rate cut last month, were gambling with ratepayers’ money.
An SCE&G spokesman did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday.
Watch video here: https://www.thestate.com/news/local/environment/article208116869.html
Ocean Springs resident Matt Campbell explains how a bi-directional meter measures electricity flow in two directions. Campbell and his wife, Lea, are able to sell the excess energy that their solar panels produce to their utility company.
A new player
Charlotte-based Duke Energy, which has customers in the Upstate and Pee Dee, spent $136,176 on nine registered lobbyists during the 2018 session — the same number it has employed since January 2014.
Both Duke and SCANA long have been among the biggest lobbyists and contributors at the State House.
New to the mix this year was Florida-based NextEra Energy, which spent $59,500 to hire nine S.C. lobbyists, including former S.C. lawmakers Harry Cato and Tommy Moore.
NextEra’s first S.C. lobbyist registered with the state less than a month after news broke that the utility was interested in buying the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, SCANA’s junior partner in the failed nuclear project.
The Florida utility is also part of the Palmetto Energy Coalition. That group is pushing S.C. lawmakers to sell Santee Cooper and has criticized Dominion’s proposed buyout of SCANA.
According to its website, the group seeks “a long-term, economically viable solution to the future energy challenges faced by South Carolina residents and businesses as a result of the failure of the SCANA/Santee Cooper V.C. Summer nuclear energy project.”
A spokesman for NextEra did not respond to questions Tuesday.
Meanwhile, state-owned Santee Cooper — NextEra’s presumed acquisition target — hired two additional lobbyists this session, spending more than $85,000 for four lobbyists.
Solar expansion blocked
While the V.C. Summer debate — with its often unflattering portrayal of utilities — dominated the session, those utilities were successful in blocking a bill that would have raised the state’s cap on solar power to 4 percent from 2 percent, allowing more future customers to earn a credit for the excess power their rooftop solar panels produce.
After heavy lobbying by Duke and SCE&G, the Legislature refused to increase the cap on the number of people who can sell excess solar energy back to the utilities at favorable rates.
Solar-industry representatives and supporters argue the state’s growing solar industry would suffer if those rates are lowered, as fewer homeowners sign up for rooftop solar, costing installers and salespeople their jobs.
However, a Duke spokesman said the cap on solar power has worked, allowing solar power to take off in South Carolina.
“The incentives that were established (by lawmakers in 2014) were never meant to be permanent, but to jump-start a nascent solar industry,” said Duke spokesman Ryan Mosier. “The law clearly spelled out milestones ... that once reached would trigger a new conversation to establish a reasonable and fair solar policy that benefits everyone for many years to come.
“We are hopeful this current effort will lead to consensus, common-sense legislation that is fair and balances the interests of ... solar providers, energy companies and customers who use solar energy — and those who do not.”
The solar companies insist the electric utilities flexed their political muscles to ward off competition.
“And many are looking to solar as an available and preferable alternative to the traditional utility,” he said.
Watch video here: https://www.thestate.com/news/state/south-carolina/article134560669.html
A 6.8 megawatt solar facility with 31,000 solar panels is producing electricity in Saluda. The Solar power industry is lobbying the South Carolina legislature to order state counties to give it tax breaks.
‘Lobbying on steroids’He said lawmakers rely on lobbyists from both sides of issues to educate them on complicated topics such as energy policy, and keep them advised about challenges facing utilities.
While solar expansion lost traction — a victory for traditional power companies — lawmakers also passed a rate cut “in the face of opposition from the energy sector,” including SCANA, Massey noted.
Said Ballentine, “There’s a reason why these utilities are monopolies and why they want to stay monopolies.”
The Legislature failed to increase the number of residences that can participate in a program that requires electric utilities to purchase their solar-generated power. Delayna Earley Island Packet
Billionaire Elon Musk pledged to pay to secure clean water for homes in Flint, Michigan, the city that fell into economic depression amid the decades-long decline of Detroit’s auto industry and is still recovering from a major public health emergency.
BLOOMBERG -- “Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination,” the chief executive officer of electric-car maker Tesla Inc. said in a tweet Wednesday. “No kidding.”
Flint’s water supply was contaminated with lead after the state of Michigan changed sources in 2014. The state has said that the city’s water now meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, but some homeowners say the water coming from their faucets remains undrinkable.
By stepping up to offer assistance to Flint, Musk is thrusting himself into a second high-profile crisis in a matter of days. Some of his more than 22.3 million Twitter followers encouraged him to get involved with the city’s water issues in response to his attempt to aid a Thai youth soccer team that was trapped in a cave before being rescued this week.
Musk’s vow to help the former home of General Motors came hours after Tesla’s fourth-largest shareholder called for the CEO to focus on key business matters after a prolonged struggle to boost production of the Model 3, the first car the company has tried to mass-manufacture.
“A time of quiet and peace is what is needed to work through these issues,” James Anderson, a partner and portfolio manager at Baillie Gifford & Co., said Wednesday in a Bloomberg Television interview. “It would be good to just concentrate on the core task.”
In follow-up tweets, Musk said he would reward volunteers willing to organize a “barnstorming weekend” for water-filter installations and said he would set up an email address -- email@example.com -- for residents to request help.
“Most houses in Flint have safe water, but they’ve lost faith in govt test results,” he said in another tweet. “Some houses are still outliers. Will organize a weekend in Flint to add filters to those houses with issues & hopefully fix perception of those that are actually good.”
Candice Mushatt, Flint’s public information officer, said in an email that neither Musk nor anyone representing him had contacted the city. Flint is replacing pipes and covering the costs involved with that process, she said.
“However, fixtures, which were badly damaged in homes and still have lead, are not covered in the replacement,” she wrote. “If Mr. Musk is seriously interested in helping Flint, the mayor would be open to speaking with him about our specific needs.”
A new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance describes some of the implications of the growing solar power and energy storage trend as it relates to the current, centralized utility-based electricity distribution model.
CLEAN TECHNICA -- Because solar and energy storage can be cost competitive with grid electricity prices in some places, consumers now have an alternative to only using utility-based electricity. Report author John Farrell answered some questions for CleanTechnica.
1. Are you expecting home energy storage to continue decreasing in price?
Yes, definitely. I’ve heard of prices today close to $500 per kilowatt-hour of capacity. I’d expect that to fall to closer to $100 in 5-10 years.
2. Is it likely that home solar power systems will be increasingly paired with home energy storage?
For sure. Given the evidence that pairing the systems can help decrease payback times under net metering successor policies (and the benefits of backup power), I expect to see that increase.
3. How can utilities plan for more and more homeowners using solar power and energy storage?
Don’t build any central-station power plants and instead look for ways to make money supporting choices customers will make anyway. Restructure rates to encourage customers to use their distributed energy systems to aid the grid (e.g. by storing energy when cheap and selling it back when expensive).
4. Will utilities ever become obsolete, or will they exist to back up individually owned solar and energy storage systems?
It depends on how you define a utility. Vertically integrated utilities that combine generation, transmission, and distribution aren’t suitable for a market in which customers can substantially fulfill the generation needs of the system locally. What we don’t need is centralized planning, what we do need is coordination.
5. Are you expecting that more and more homeowners will go off-grid completely, or will they remained grid-tied, most likely?
I don’t expect many homeowners to go off-grid at all in the next decade, but that depends a lot on whether they live in a particularly good region for it and if the utility makes it worthwhile with high fixed charges or other dumb policies.
6. How does the increasing number of EVs figure into the home solar and energy storage picture?
As we reported last year, increasing EV deployment can increase the local grid capacity for distributed solar. It’s also a large source electricity demand that can typically be time-shifted. It’s not quite as useful as a standalone battery until there are viable, commercial vehicle-to-grid services or ways for a vehicle owner to tap the battery.
7. Are there states currently that are leading the others in terms of solar and energy storage adoption?
Massachusetts comes to mind, as do Hawaii and California. Mostly those that have required utilities to do it, provided strong incentives, or where the economics have driven customers to it on their own.
8. Have you seen any cases where homeowners use their own electricity from home energy storage to avoid peak usage charges?
Personally? No. But I’m sure if you talk to Sunrun they will say that’s why 1 in 5 residential customers in California are combining solar and storage.
9. Are you expecting more home energy storage products to enter the market to increase competition?
10. Are more businesses also using solar and energy storage onsite?
They will. Clean Energy Group’s landmark study last year shows how incredibly valuable storage is to cutting demand charges for commercial customers.
11. Should utility workers be planning to have their jobs phased out eventually?
Power plant workers should be exploring their options. Line workers will always be needed because we’ll still want a grid.
12. By 2030, how much home solar and energy storage penetration will there be?
Honestly, I have no idea because there are so many factors. I’d be willing to wager that about half of distributed solar installed in the 2020s will come paired with energy storage.
Nearly 43% of the US workforce will work in gig economy jobs by 2020. Here are the cities where you can earn the most in these roles.
TECH REPUBLIC -- Freelance work via the gig economy has skyrocketed in recent years, offering new nontraditional work opportunities across industries in the US. The more than 57 million Americans who work freelance jobs contribute nearly $1.4 trillion to the economy every year, according to a study from Upwork and the Freelancers Union. And by 2020, Intuit projected that 43% of the US workforce will be represented by gig economy jobs.
While there are many opportunities available, it's crucial for freelancers to carefully decide where to start working these jobs, if possible, to get the biggest bang for their buck, according to a recent report from FitSmallBusiness.com.
Gig economies are strongest in metropolitan areas with greater demands for service industry needs, the report found—think ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft, short-term rentals like Airbnb, and freelance task services, like TaskRabbit. These areas are also popular for startups and tech companies that rely more on nontraditional employees, as well as those that run pilot programs of new service platforms, the report noted.
The report analyzed publicly-available data from 20 cities to determine which are best for gig economy jobs. In ranking the cities, the report took into account current per capita gig revenue, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment, and growth of the gig economy. As a tiebreaker, it also considered resources for nontraditional employees in each city, such as the availability of shared workspaces and high-speed internet.
Here are the top 10 best cities to make money in the gig economy in 2018. To see the full list, click here. You can also check out this list of the highest-paid gig economy jobs overall.
1. San Francisco
Despite a high cost of living (a one-bedroom apartment typically costs $3,460/month), San Francisco offers high earning potential and accelerated growth of the gig economy, leading it to rank no. 1 on the list. The city had a per capita revenue of $9,272 for technical gig-based jobs, and experienced a 93% growth rate in its gig economy industries between 2012 and 2014 alone.
Specialized gig economy jobs brought in $4.7 billion in 2017, giving Atlanta a per capita revenue of $9,665. The city also ranked highly on cost of living, with an average $1,328/month for a one-bedroom apartment.
Atlanta tied with no. 3 Los Angeles for this spot, but the city's Google Fiber network and number of co-working spaces gave it the edge, the report noted.
3. Los Angeles
Between 2012 and 2014, LA experienced a 79% increase in its "rides and rooms" economy, with the ground transportation industry alone increasing 136% in that time. While a one bedroom apartment is costly at $1,949/month, the city's per capita revenue for specialized gig jobs was $4,575 in 2017.
Home to many top universities, Boston's per capita gig revenue was $7,882 in 2017, with gig economy growth at 59%. While rental costs are relatively high at $2,260/month for a one-bedroom apartment, the overall cost of living was sixth on the list.
5. Washington, DC
The nation's capital had the second-highest per capita gig revenue on the list, at $11,240 in 2017. With an average one-bedroom rental cost of $1,966/month, the overall cost of living makes it the third most affordable city on the list. While growth of the gig economy was lower than many other cities at 36%, DC has a number of services available to local freelancers.
Dallas offers the second-lowest rental costs on the list, at an average of $997/month for a one-bedroom apartment. This low rent combined with an annual per capita gig revenue of $4,698, and 40% growth in the industry between 2012 and 2014, help Dallas rank highly for overall cost of living and gig opportunities.
7. San Jose
San Jose ranked no. 2 for gig economy growth, with a 91% increase in gig economy jobs from 2012 to 2014. However, a high cost of living of $2,548/month for a one-bedroom apartment led it to drop in the rankings.
8. San Diego
San Diego had among the lowest per capita revenue for gig jobs of the cities on the list, as well as high rental costs of $1,547/month. However, the city ranked fourth for growth, with a 66% increase in gig jobs in the years studied, and offers high-speed internet and a number of highly-ranked coworking spaces.
Miami saw the highest per capita gig revenue on the list, at $16,402 in 2017. While the average rent of $2,000/month is high, the high earning potential and growth in the gig economy makes up for it, the report said.
Phoenix, AZ has the most affordable housing options of any city on the list, with an average monthly one-bedroom apartment rent of $770. Combined with 46% growth in gig jobs in the period studied, Phoenix is a strong contender as a city where a gig workers can live comfortably and make money.
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
The cities where gig economy workers can make the most money and have the best quality of life are San Francisco, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. — FitSmallBusiness.com, 2018
Gig economies are strongest in metropolitan areas with greater demands for service industry needs. — FitSmallBusiness.com, 2018
An innovative and simple solar panel efficiency device has just gone open source in order to get renewable energy to those who need it most.
SILICON REPUBLIC -- When you picture solar power, you might think of the enormous Ivanpah solar power plant in California (the largest in the world) or huge tracts of land in other sun-drenched parts of the globe.
But not everyone has access to such enormous grids and particularly in remote villages in developing nations, there is only a need for a single or small group of solar panels that could maintain maximum efficiency to sustain a family or the village itself.
This is exactly what inspired Inspirefest 2018 speaker and software/mechanical engineer Eden Full Goh to develop her SunSaluter device from cheap, recycled materials found across the globe.
Her original idea aimed to tackle one of solar energy’s biggest problems: having a solar panel pointing directly at the sun at all times, otherwise known as solar tracking.
As the Earth rotates, the sun’s position in the sky above changes, meaning that while at one point the panel will be pointed directly at it around midday, in the morning and evening it is out of direct sunlight, leaving those in need with limited power.
Unlike what you might find at Ivanpah, however, Full Goh wanted to make a moveable solar panel that could be easily put together.
A device for allAfter a trip to east Africa to test the prototype SunSaluter, Full Goh quickly learned that the challenge at hand was greater than she first thought, with those in one village saying the parts were not readily available there and that it could be dangerous to local children playing nearby.
“I decided to spend the rest of my trip learning about them,” she said on stage. “If these complicated metal parts weren’t available to them, what would be?”
Then, a brainwave hit the Chinese-Canadian inventor: what if she could hit two birds with one stone and create both a device that could harness more solar energy but also create potable drinking water?
What resulted was the final SunSaluter device, which is now capable of providing energy and safe water to those who need it the most. She announced on stage that while it was originally patented, it has been made open source for anyone to build.
“We’ve impacted 17,000 people so far,” she said, “but I’d really like us to expand our reach.
As president of the country's tallest solar residence, located in Midtown Manhattan, there’s a lot I can tell you about the stresses and ins and outs of managing a 45-story skyscraper residence in the heart of the nation’s biggest city.
FORBES -- Satisfying a luxury clientele can sometimes require outside-the-box thinking, to say the least. That’s why perhaps the most crucial decision I made in opening up the building had nothing to do with the amenities inside.
I’ve become an evangelist of sorts for solar power, because the benefits are there for the taking and too many of my peers seem to be dragging their feet. For a modest installation cost, any building under the sun can join the green energy revolution and save money at the same time. In an industry where being environmentally conscious is becoming more important and being money conscious has always been crucial, solar power is the easiest way to generate clean energy and excitement at the same time.
These are a few of the lessons I’ve learned since getting started in solar.
It's easy to start small, but you don't have to.I can freely admit that I was somewhat skeptical when I began dipping my toes into solar power for my properties. My first experiment was on top of a four-story building in the Bronx, where I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give a potential new project a try. When I saw the energy savings happen, I knew I shouldn’t waste any time scaling up, and eventually that meant bringing solar to the top of a 45-floor Manhattan luxury high-rise. Just like in real estate, the higher you go, the better the view — only this one looks straight up.
Getting installed correctly is key. An accredited installer certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) can get you set up, and like any vendor, you’re free to shop around for the best quote. There are even leasing options if you don’t feel ready to make a long-term buying commitment.
It's cheaper than you think, in both the short term and the long run.The days of prohibitively expensive solar installations are long over. As the technology improves, the cost of switching to solar becomes lower by the day. Bloomberg New Energy Finance said the same thing, forecasting a drop of 60% in solar prices (registration required) over the next two decades. By 2040, their experts found, solar energy will be cheaper than coal and natural gas in metropolitan regions across the country. You won’t have to wait until then to enjoy the financial benefits, however.
In all, we save about $120,000 per year on energy costs thanks to the solar array. Not to mention the management team isn’t assuming these relatively meager costs alone. The Solar Investment Tax Credit will pay back 30% of my company’s investment in commercial solar between now and 2021, so getting started ASAP was crucial. But the ease of installation and the savings don’t paint the whole picture.
The benefits extend beyond myself.In both residential and commercial real estate, making your tenants happy can take a lot of work and takes on an infinite number of forms. Adding solar is one of the few methods that saves you money while you generate goodwill for yourself and your building. My tenants are continually telling me how happy they are about the solar panels on the building’s roof.
They’re not happy because I’m saving on energy costs or because of my company’s solar tax credit. They’re happy because they’re proud to live in a place where innovation is embraced, not ignored. They’re happy because they can tell their friends and family that they’re living sustainably without sacrificing the amenities that make their building so attractive. They’re happy because living with green energy is the way of the future, and they can all take part just by taking up residence in this building.
I realize I must sound like a solar salesman at times here, but there’s no profit motive for me. If I seem very attached to the solar method, it’s because so many of my peers seem irrationally resistant to this easy way to improve their bottom line and lessen their environmental impact at the same time. I don’t think putting a solar installation on my roofs was a revolutionary act — only when the rest of my peers in real estate do the same thing can we call it a true revolution. With savings, ease of installation and goodwill to be had, why wait?
It’s happened to all of us: One minute, we're hitting home runs out of the park; the next, we're swinging and missing every time.
ENTREPRENEUR -- What's happening? We've hit a slump. And while slumps can happen to any of us, a sales slump is especially unfortunate, because making sales is how a person makes a living. Not making any sales? You’re not making any money.
As the owner of multiple marketing agencies, I’ve spent years in sales, and I’ve had my fair share of slow periods. But the good thing about slumps is, they don’t last. If you just push through, you can get past your slump and get back to making sales.
Even the best salespeople have bad days -- it’s how they get through those days that makes the difference. Here’s what five of them had to say about how they deal with sales slumps:
1. Don’t give up.
When you fall into a slump, your first instinct is to stop what you’re doing and wait for it to pass. But sales consultant Peter Collins (who, in a career spanning 53 years, has worked for two multinationals and achieved Hall of Fame status in both) says that waiting for a slump to pass is exactly what you shouldn’t do.
In an article on LinkedIn, Collins wrote, “The easiest way to address this is that you need to keep getting in front of prospects, keep presenting and above all keep doing all the activities you are aware of that lead to getting sales across the line.”
Tip: If you stop doing the activities that lead to sales, you’ll only extend the slump. You just need to keep going, and the slump will pass.
2. Get your head in the game.
A slump can easily get you down and cause you to lose motivation, but success is all about mindset. If your mind isn’t in the right place, you won’t be able to pull yourself out of the slump.
In an interview with Inside Sales Summit, sales strategist Jill Konrath, the author of multiple books, said: “My best investment in becoming a better salesperson wasn’t in a course or a book -- the best investment I ever made was changing my mindset.”
Tip: If I myself am not 100 percent focused on my goals as a salesperson, I know I won’t be successful. And it’s even more important to stay focused when you’re in a slump. That’s why I do whatever it takes to stay positive and keep my mind on the task in front of me.
3. Find inspiration.
So how do you get into the right mindset? Sometimes, deciding that you need to focus isn’t enough to actually do it. You need to look around you for inspiration and motivation.
In a blog post for Salesforce, Alice Myerhoff, VP of sales at EdSurge, wrote, “There are so many great free podcasts about sales. Look for motivational stuff from folks like Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy or Tony Robbins, or podcasts specific to sales to shift your thinking. I like to listen while I’m commuting to the office to pump myself up.”
Tip: I also love listening to podcasts. I even host my own, (with Aaron Agius), called the Growth Mapping Podcast where we talk about how to grow businesses. There’s so much knowledge out there today, and it’s all easily accessible. You just have to go out and find it.
4. Get back to basics.
If your slump is going on longer than you’d like, maybe it’s time to look at your process. Where might you be going wrong? Take a look at what you’ve done at those times when you were successful. What were you doing that made you successful? What are you doing now that might be different?
On her blog, sales strategist Colleen Francis has written: “Problems aren't usually caused by something complicated. They're usually the result of doing the simplest thing just slightly wrong. And more often than not, we know exactly what the problem is.”
Tip: Start at the beginning, and look at each step of your process. Analyze what you’re doing; look for problems that are occurring; and figure out how you can do things better.
5. Get help.
No one likes a martyr. If you’re really struggling, reach out to someone for help. Chances are someone has gone through a slump just like yours and may be able to provide some wisdom.
On LinkedIn, sales manager David Murray wrote, “Talk to a senior colleague about your ‘slump.’ I do this every time because another person's perspective is excellent at highlighting problems. They may simply listen, provide suggestions or just give you a boost in confidence, but the end result is that you feel better about yourself.”
Tip: Sales is also a team effort. If one person is struggling, it affects the whole team. The best way to get out of a slump is to find a solution together.
CLIMATE CHANGE IS HEATING UP LOS ANGELES. WE NEED A GRID THAT CAN KEEP THE POWER ON WHEN IT'S SWELTERING
The record-breaking heat that baked Southern California and prompted mass power outages last weekend was just a taste of what is to come. Summers in SoCal have already been getting hotter over the last century.
LA TIMES -- Climate change is expected to produce more frequent and more blistering heat waves in the coming years that will put unprecedented stress on the electrical grid and challenge utilities to keep the power on.
Los Angeles, apparently, isn’t ready for the new normal. The demand for electricity Friday, Saturday and Sunday overwhelmed the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s aged system, prompting power outages that affected more than 80,000 customers. The unluckiest people went 48 hours without electricity; they and many others had to evacuate their homes in search of air conditioning elsewhere.
Los Angeles wasn’t alone. Other communities, including some served by Southern California Edison, experienced heat-related electrical outages. But the number and duration of the power problems in Los Angeles should be a wake-up call that there is a lot of work needed to make the city more resilient as heat waves like this become more common.
The number of days over 95 degrees could triple or quadruple by 2050, UCLA scientists have forecast. That means increased electricity demand as people crank up the AC. It also means more residents will install air conditioning, putting additional strain on the electrical grid. Such temperatures can be deadly to residents without air conditioning — or those who lose their air conditioning in a power outage.
In Los Angeles, the power situation last weekend was complicated by several factors. With the severity of the heat wave — triple digits across much of the city, with record-setting temperatures in many areas — more people switched on the air conditioning, creating near-record demand for electricity. And because the temperatures didn’t drop overnight, more people keep their air conditioners running. That further strained the electrical system and caused more outages.
Communities in the DWP’s “metro” area — neighborhoods in the central city south of Mulholland Drive — were hit particularly hard. These areas (unlike, say, the San Fernando Valley) don’t usually get temperatures in the triple digits for extended periods of time and have older electrical infrastructure that is often underground and takes longer to repair. The result was widespread and lengthy outages.
To make the electrical grid more resilient, it has to be more reliable. The DWP has an enormous backlog of deferred maintenance projects, leaving its system vulnerable. After heat waves in 2006 and 2007 caused mass outages, the utility launched an ambitious plan to replace old and overloaded electrical distribution equipment. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council then hiked customers’ rates in 2016 to expedite the modernization of the electrical system, but officials say it will still take decades to catch up.
The solution has to go beyond electrical wires and circuits. The DWP has to work closely with customers to keep their homes and their communities cooler so there is less demand for power.
It means getting more homes and businesses to install solar panels to provide their own power and take pressure off the grid. It means ramping up energy efficiency programs to encourage more customers to invest in “power-sipping” appliances, double-paned windows, insulation and other products that can both lower electricity demand and cool a home. California has been a national leader in requiring that new appliances and buildings be energy efficient.
There needs to be greater focus on making older buildings energy efficient and getting landlords to modernize their apartment buildings. That’s especially important in low-income communities and neighborhoods where, in the past, air conditioning was often viewed as an unaffordable luxury. Residents in those areas will be increasingly vulnerable as the number and severity of heat waves increase.
The DWP and the city also need be more aggressive in planting shade trees around homes and businesses, and replacing dark pavement and roof tiles with light-colored materials that reflect, instead of absorb, heat.
Preparing for a hotter future won’t be cheap or easy. But the past weekend provided a worrisome glimpse into what will happen in Los Angeles if we don’t.
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