Going Solar Makes 'Cents' for Commercial Development Projects

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Oak Tree Village in San Jose is Akeena Solar’s latest commercial solar electric project with JSM Enterprises, a development company focused on developing below-market housing. The 21.8 kW PV system will provide the new 175-unit apartment complex with enough electricity to power their underground parking, common area lighting, and run other common area electric loads, such as the elevator.

Oak Tree Village in San Jose is Akeena Solar’s latest commercial solar electric project with JSM Enterprises, a development company based in Campbell. The 21.8 kW PV system will provide the new 175-unit apartment complex with enough electricity to power their underground parking, common area lighting, and run other common area electric loads, such as the elevator.

Challenges of Multi-family Housing

JSM Enterprises has focused on developing below-market housing for the past eight years. They have constructed and now operate over 1,500 affordable housing units in San Jose and have “gone solar” with two other projects (Las Ventanas and Villa Solera), in addition to Oak Tree Village.

Building, owning and operating multi-family housing has always been a challenge in the San Francisco Bay Area. No one knows this highly competitive field better than JSM Enterprises. Mark Ruebsamen, Vice President of JSM Enterprises shares the challenges: “One challenge we face in the Bay Area is our rapidly increasing demand for electricity. Five years ago all of our apartment complexes were built with surface parking. Today due to the high cost of land we build most of our parking underground below the apartments. This means that our firm owns and maintains acres of underground parking that must be illuminated 24 hours a day. Needless to say, our firm's electricity bills would take your breath away. “

To solve this problem JSM looked into the feasibility of generating some of the electricity through renewable energy. To do this they chose Akeena Solar in Los Gatos. “Akeena's professional staff helped us to analyze the numbers to determine what size of system made the most financial sense and to help us to navigate the otherwise complicated process of applying for renewable energy rebates,” said Mr. Ruebsamen. “We found that it makes financial sense, so we then hired Akeena to design and install solar arrays on three of our largest apartment complexes in San Jose.”

The result is that JSM Enterprises is generating approximately 25% to 30% of the electricity that is used at those properties and their PG&E bills have dropped accordingly.

Economics Are Great For Commercial Solar PV Projects

With the new 30% federal tax credit in place through 2007, it's no surprise that the market for commercial solar electric systems is really taking off. When the continued increase in electric rates are taken into consideration, paybacks for commercial solar systems are typically less than five years. As a result, the vast majority of solar module shipments to the U.S. are going for commercial installations.

The financial analysis for Oak Tree Village is a great example of the fast paybacks of installing solar electric. The total costs of the solar energy system were $163,200, including all engineering, equipment, permits and installation. JSM Enterprises received a $50,266 rebate from the California Energy Commission and an $11,293 federal solar tax credit. Net costs to the apartment owners were $101,641. In addition there is a significant depreciation tax benefit (using MACRS). The Oak Tree Village PV system will reach an economic break even point in just four and a half years.

Based on current commercial electric rates and an assumed 5% average annual rate increases, the system will produce $303,013 in energy cost savings over its 30-year design life. Fossil fuel energy costs continue to rise, with no end in sight. At this rate there is a good chance that incentives won't even be needed in five years -- providing even a bigger economic "bang for the buck" to today's far sighted early adopters of solar power systems.

Commercial Solar Projects Can Make a Big Foot Print

“Going solar” is a perfect opportunity to make a positive impact on environmental conditions and Commercial projects, in particular, can reduce the “environmental footprint” of the company and help it achieve a more sustainable business model. “Farsighted businesses such as JSM Enterprises realize that they can be part of the energy solution by installing solar electric and also reap big financial benefits at the same time”, said Barry Cinnamon, President of Akeena Solar. “We are proud to have partnered with JSM to provide a renewable energy resource that is both good for the environment and good for the economy”.

According to the EPA, the 21.8kWDC system at Oak Tree Village will generate clean electricity that will reduce atmospheric emissions, including 542 pounds of NOX and nearly 300 tons of CO2. The CO2absorption is the equivalent of 7.3 acres of trees.

“The added bonus was that this entire process went smoothly from beginning to end,” said Mark Ruebsamen.

About Akeena Solar

Akeena Solar has grown to become the largest national residential and commercial solar electric system installer in the U.S. (based on 2004 data from the California Energy Commission). Akeena’s professional staff embodies decades of experience and provides customers with an unsurpassed combination of solar design expertise, financial analysis and quality installation. For more information, visit Akeena Solar’s website at http://www.akeena.net. Akeena Solar employs four NABCEP Certified PV Installers.

Founded in 2001, Akeena Solar’s philosophy is simple: we believe that producing clean electricity directly from the sun is the right thing to do for our environment and economy.

Contacts:                                

Akeena Solar                            

Barry Cinnamon, President                    

Cell: 408-406-0058                                    

http://www.akeena.net                                                                            
Photo available at: http://www.akeena.net/commercial_systems/oak_tree_village_case_study.html

Additional Photos Available Upon Request

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