‘Soft Costs’ Now the Largest Cost of U.S. Solar Installations

by Joshua S Hill.

U.S. Department of  Energy (DoE)  National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) cost of solar chart.
U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) cost of solar chart.

Two reports published by the US Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) show that soft costs — such as financing and other non-hardware costs — now make up the largest section of solar installation costs, coming in at 64% of the total price for residential solar energy systems.

The two reports – ”Benchmarking Non-Hardware Balance-of-System (Soft) Costs for U.S. Photovoltaic Systems, Using a Bottom-up Approach and Installer Survey – Second Edition” and ”Financing, Overhead, and Profit: An In-depth Discussion of Costs Associated with Third-party Financing of Residential and Commercial Photovoltaic Systems” — combine to show just how soft costs are becoming an increasingly more important part of solar installations.

“The two new reports, along with previous reports, provide a comprehensive look at the full cost of installing solar, while delineating and quantifying the various contributors to that final cost,” NREL analyst Barry Friedman said.

The first report showed that in the first half of 2012 soft costs represented the majority of all costs — 64% of the total price for a residential system, up from 50% as identified in a previous report conducted in 2012, and similarly high percentages for small and larger commercial installations.

Residential soft cost categories for the first (2010 data) and second (2012 data) editions of the benchmarking study. For the first edition of the benchmarking study, 2010 “all other soft costs” had not been differentiated. For the second edition, we quantified five sub-categories within this broader category.

The second report focused on the five sub-categories identified in the previous report only as ‘other soft costs’ — namely, transaction costs, indirect corporate costs, installer/developer profit, supply chain costs, and sales tax.

This article, NREL: Soft Costs Now Largest Piece Of Solar Installation Costs, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Joshua S. HillJoshua S Hill I’m a Christian, a nerd, a geek, a liberal left-winger, and believe that we’re pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I work as Associate Editor for the Important Media Network and write for CleanTechnica and Planetsave. I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), Amazing Stories, the Stabley Times and Medium.   I love words with a passion, both creating them and reading them.

NREL Software Could Cut Commercial Building Energy Audit Costs 75%

by Silvio Marcacci

simuwatt tablet display image via NREL
simuwatt tablet display image via NREL

These days, there’s an app for pretty much everything. From gaming to home energy management, tasks are done on handheld devices through the cloud. So why are energy audits still stuck on clipboards and pencils?

Good news – by next year, commercial building energy audits will finally join the 21st century thanks to the simuwatt Energy Auditor, a new tablet-based software package developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and software company concept3D that could cut audit costs by up to 75%

It may seem like insignificant news, but simuwatt could streamline this laborious process through computer modeling, find new ways to boost energy efficiency, and save commercial buildings millions of dollars every year.

Make Energy Audits More Efficient To Make Buildings More Efficient

Commercial buildings in America represent 7% of the world’s total energy consumption and use roughly $134 billion in electricity to power all those computers, heating and ventilation systems, and lights.

All that power means commercial buildings are huge targets for increased energy efficiency, but until now the process of finding the right upgrades for each building has been inefficient, with audits for many buildings often costing more than potential savings from energy improvements.

Enter simuwatt. Energy auditors will now be able to perform audits on mobile tablets and upload results into cloud-based servers for advanced energy modeling results and recommendations in almost real time. “Its software-guided workflow allows customers to double their audit capacity,” said Oliver Davis, CEO of concept3D. “More audits mean more retrofit work, more revenue, and more efficient buildings.”

Combining The Best Of NREL & DOE Technology

The software seems like a no-brainer, but it’s the result of NREL combining several ideas already in use across federal government facilities. NREL has traditionally conducted audits for the Defense Department, State Department, and National Park Service, and simuwatt combines the best results of years of practice.

For instance, the Department of Energy’s EnergyPlus tool is integrated to run simulations that determine energy flow, while NREL’s OpenStudio combines with concept3D’s geometry capture software to create a detailed 3D model of each building as auditors walk through it to analyze energy savings from potential improvements.

A user could pose the question: “Does it make economic sense to retrofit windows in this building?” The response from simuwatt Energy Auditor might be something like “Yes, if it is more than three stories high and at least 40 years old and if you use these kinds of windows.” If that’s not in the budget, then the user can change one parameter and see what difference it makes for the bottom line.

The software can also help lower solar soft costs through features like assessing the capacity of a roof for adding solar panels or perform additional time-saving tasks like calculating the value of replacing lighting fixtures all in one program, instead of farming work out to multiple contractors.

simuwatt energy audit
simuwatt energy audit image via NREL

Defense Department Testing Before Full Launch

NREL will now test the software in real-world settings by using it to audit 18 buildings across 6 Defense Department bases in Colorado, Texas, California, South Carolina, and Florida.

Once those results are in, analysts will have a better sense of simuwatt’s potential to make auditing and commercial businesses more efficient. and will release the software to the energy auditing industry. “The hope is that by lowering costs, you can not only get deeper savings but also get into more buildings,” said Andrew Parker of NREL.

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This article, NREL Software Could Cut Commercial Building Energy Audit Costs 75%, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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