The Particulars of Installing an On-site Renewable Energy System at Your School - Go the Extra Mile

Before you dive into researching specifics about solar, wind, geothermal, or biomass energy systems, you should be armed with some basic information that will help you along the way.

Keep in mind that the right kind of system for your location may ACTUALLY help you save money in the long run
If you keep in mind that you might be able to save money on electricity or heating by using an on-site renewable energy source, then you won’t be as apt to settle for a highly expensive system. On-site renewable energy systems are often expensive initially because of installation, but you should consider the long-term benefits of the cheaper than traditional energy source and how long, precisely, the payback period is. That’s why you should be meticulous about finding the system that offers the best use of your local energy sources and uses the best funding incentives available. Although overall savings may be humble and can differ quite a bit depending on the energy source, the DOE reports that using a direct use geothermal system, for example, can save a building as much as 80% over traditional fossil fuels!

Read Upload Knowledge if you haven’t already
You should familiarize yourself with the background technologies and industry of each of the renewable energy sources you are considering for your school. It’s especially important to be aware of the pros and cons of each so that you can be an informed consumer and be ready to ask critical questions of potential vendors you may work with...

Speak the language
Renewable energy technology is a relatively new industry and not many people are familiar with all the lingo in the field. Furthermore, the technology is progressing at such a rapid clip that even people in the field sometimes have trouble keeping up with all the developments. Therefore, we’ve provided some resources here to help you with unfamiliar words you may come across:

The American Institute of Architects' Sustainability Page is a helpful resource for understanding the talking points of green architecture and for finding a green architect to help you with your project.

Ins & outs of your renewable energy’s connection to the grid
It’s important to understand what options may be available to your school for connecting a renewable energy system such as solar or wind to the grid. Having the renewable energy source connected to the grid can sometimes bypass the need for an expensive battery system to store your power because any extra power you produce can flow into the grid for credit, and later when you are not producing energy, the grid can send power back to you. However, you should be aware of the different methods for sending excess power to the grid. Some utilities require an extra meter to measure how much power flows back to the grid and that power is often purchased by the utility for a much lower rate than the retail price. But, many states now offer net metering programs that allow meters to turn backwards when you produce extra electricity. This offsets electricity bills at retail rates, and you could save a lot of money as a result. It essentially allows you to bank your excess energy to be used later on an as-needed basis. Check out DSIRE’s Net Metering Rules for Renewable Energy to see what net metering policies and incentives are in place in your state.

For more information about connecting to the grid, including more on regulatory policies, check out the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. They also offer a state-by-state table of interconnection standards allowing users to compare state policies and voluntary utility programs based on key components, such as eligible technologies, maximum individual system capacity, application costs, additional insurance requirements, and other components.