KFTC’s London office is on track to be completely solar-powered! | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

KFTC’s London office is on track to be completely solar-powered!

Solar panels on KFTC's London office building

Solar panels were recently installed on KFTC’s main office in London. This was the final step in a series of energy upgrades that the building had been undergoing in the last several months, which puts the office building on track to be completely solar-powered.
Energy audit of KFTC's London office, performed by MACED's E3 program.Working with partners at the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), the building underwent an initial energy efficiency audit to determine what upgrades or fixes could be done to make it more energy efficient. This included a blower door test, which helped find all the places where air was coming into or out of the building and losing energy. These areas were then patched or holes plugged where the air was escaping. 
For example, the auditor found an uninsulated interior wall that had a hole in it, which enabled heated or cooled air to go straight up into the attic and outside.
KFTC owns the office building in London, making these investments possible (KFTC does not own the office spaces rented in other areas of the state).
The next step was upgrading the building’s insulation. Using spray foam insulation in the building, especially in the attic space, also helped seal many of the problem areas where air had been escaping. Upgrading the insulation also helped the building better maintain a steady temperature inside and decreasing the electricity used by the HVAC system.
Lastly, utilizing a rebate from Kentucky Utilities, all the lights inside the building were upgraded to LED lights.
And we’re already seeing an impact on the building’s utility bill. In the most recent twelve months, the building used 7,424 kWh of electricity whereas in the previous twelve months, the building used 13,520 kWh of electricity – 45 percent less usage! These savings are almost entirely as a result of the energy efficiency upgrades and do not include the newly-installed solar panels.
“In terms of cost, typically energy efficiency projects have more ‘bang-for-the-buck,’ or they’re ‘lower-hanging-fruit’ than rooftop solar,” explained Josh Bills, who is the Commercial Energy Specialist with MACED and helped with the project.
Bills also explained that the timing of the installation was critical. After legislators passed the anti-rooftop solar law last year, consumers will potentially no longer receive a one-to-one credit for energy generated from solar panels (it will be up to the Kentucky Public Service Commission to determine rates as requested by utilities from here on out). 

Installation of solar panels by Solar Energy Solutions

Installing the panels now ensures that KFTC will receive the full one-to-one credit for the next 25 years.
The cost of the solar panels and their installation was just under $20,000 and was approved by KFTC’s Steering Committee. With the savings from the energy efficiency upgrades and with the solar system estimated to be producing 8,500 kWh per year, the office is on track to be an energy-positive building, or completely solar-powered!
Chris Woolery, a member of KFTC’s New Energy & Transition committee, shared his excitement about the energy improvements:
“The clean energy improvements at the KFTC office are so important to me as a KFTC member, because they prove all of the things our members have been saying for years. The energy efficiency work proves that you can make a building more healthy and comfortable – and save money at the same time. The solar install proves that you can do the right thing for the environment – and save money at the same time! And using local contractors to do the work proves that Kentuckians have the skills, drive, and expertise to create the bright future that all Kentuckians want, need, and deserve. We need good jobs, healthier environments, and affordable energy in every single county of this state – and the only things holding us back are excuses and bad energy policy!
What the numbers tell us
By Josh Bills
In terms of cost, typically energy efficiency projects have more “bang-for-the-buck” than rooftop solar.
With the KFTC office, solar investment of $19,984 equals annual savings of $1,082. That comes to a simple payback of 18.5 years ($19,983.60 ÷ $1,082). Compare this with the lighting upgrade to LED in 2015. That investment was $1,024 with annual savings (today’s rate) of $175, which comes to a simple payback of 5.9 years ($1,024 ÷ $175). Combine the two and you get a simple payback of 16.7 years [($19,983.60 + $1,024) ÷ ($1,082 + $175)].
If we add the cost and savings of the insulation and air-sealing work that took place, we might see the overall cost get down to simple payback of overall investment closer to 10 to 12-year range.
Without the efficiency measures taken at least 30 percent more, or another eight (8) solar modules, would have to be added to the roof and there just isn’t space on the roof to do that.
Being one-for-one net metered gives an easy path to evaluate bill cost savings from solar generated kilowatts of electricity. 
With some different credit value than retail (i.e. without the one-for-one) we would have to know quantity of kWhs fed back to utility grid (at some new lower-than-retail value) versus quantity of solar kWhs consumed behind-the-meter (and thus avoiding retail cost electric kWh purchase) to get at savings—this is a hard thing to get clarity about before solar installed and some billing history is reviewed to get a sense of when consumption and generation line up—and thus will make it hard to estimate savings solar investments could provide for residential and small business electric customers.