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Revenue Generation Emerges as Take-Away Theme at DC Solar Decathlon

University teams from around the world converged on the National Mall in Washington, DC last week to build 20 homes that demonstrated the latest and greatest in solar heat and power.

The efforts were measured in 10 contests, of which half are juried and half are based largely on energy performance, according to the Solar Decathlon Web site.  Contests aside, it’s worth noting that all of the homes were designed to generate enough power to meet inhabitants’ energy needs and still have a fair amount left over. The capability highlights a growing trend that turns the concept of zero net power consumption into a potential revenue stream via selling back overflow energy to the grid with the help of net metering technology and creative financial solutions.

I am reminded of one such company NSI recently worked with a client to deliver this concept, where our client devised an energy buyback system that involved issuing bonds for renewable energy technology upgrades and installation and then making loans to homeowners. A special tax district was established so that homeowners could acquire funding through a municipality. The municipality would then apply levies on property taxes for the loan term in order for borrowers to pay for the initial technology investment.  This is just one example of the creative financial solutions under development to stimulate the wide-spread adoption of solar technology.

Through the Recovery Act, the federal government is investing heavily in the power infrastructure upgrades needed to facilitate wide-spread adoption of renewable power. As SmartPlanet points out, renewables are being funded via tax credits, stimulus dollars and other programs. Billions have already been doled out for wider smart meter implementation as well as auto battery research and manufacturing.  Some $43 billion of stimulus funds have been earmarked for energy projects such as rebuilding the aging grid. Tax credits encourage a quadrupling of wind energy over the next few years.

As a result, NSI has forged many relationships between the renewable technology industry and the government market. And it’s only the beginning. Just a few years ago, the buzz still focused on balancing the merits of renewable energy against the initial capital outlay. But now that making money’s involved on the back end, it’s a whole new world for renewables.

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