Sometime last month, BizStream went dark, and we couldn't have been more excited because the darkness came as our newly installed solar panels were being hooked up!
Why BizStream Went Solar
Going solar has been a goal of BizStream's for a while now. As a tech company, we love the idea of leaning into this new(ish) technology. But, beyond the techy, fun stuff, we had many other reasons for harnessing solar power.
Environmental Reasons for Going Solar
- Become a green leader. We hope to inspire others within our industry and community to consider renewable energy.
- Reduce our carbon footprint. As solar energy relies entirely on gathering energy from the sun and converting it into electricity, using it means that we're not producing any greenhouse gases or contributing to global warming.
- Reduce fossil fuel consumption. Fossil fuels are a finite source of energy and damage the planet when we mine and distribute it. By relying on solar panels, we become one less unit relying on fossil fuels.
- It feels good. Simply put, it feels good to be doing the right thing for our planet and our future generations.
Practical Reasons for Going Solar
- Timing and affordability. From a financial perspective, now is a great time to capitalize on solar energy. Costs of panels have dropped over 70% in the last decade, and BizStream was able to take advantage of various tax incentives and grants.
- Eliminating rising energy costs. As anthropogenic climate change progresses and extreme weather becomes more widespread, the energy demand becomes higher and will likely drive electricity prices higher.
- High reliability, low maintenance. Solar panels last about 50 years and need little to no maintenance. The ones we bought come with a 25-year warranty, but they are expected to last even longer than that. Though in 25 years, the technology will change so much that we may replace them with even more efficient panels before that (due to costs being so low and production so high).
- Good return on investment. Minimal costs after a few years.
- Long-term thinking. Eliminate future static costs as solar panels offer an excellent long-term benefit of providing savings on the cost of utilities.
- Solar is an investment. Great resale value.
Personal Experiences for Going Solar
Another deciding factor in our decision to go solar is based on our Founder's personal experience, Mark Schmidt. Mark went solar at his home in 2019 after seeing the benefits his parents experienced once they made the switch. Noting the affordability and the collective energy output throughout all the seasons in Michigan, Mark was confident that solar was a great way to reach BizStream's goal of becoming a more environmentally friendly company.
"I've always been interested in alternative energy (solar, wind, water, movement, etc.)", Mark Schmidt, BizStream Founder, shares. "I've done small personal solar/battery projects at home on my gazebo, so I could listen to music and run a ceiling fan out there. I've always wanted to do it on my house and business, but financially, it never made sense due to the cost of batteries. However, once I realized there was 1-to-1 net metering available, it became an option to explore. We are pretty much using the utility company as the battery. We generate power for the utility company, and they credit us. They supply us with electricity, but it is 100% paid for by the credits. This works great because we over-produce in the summer and under-produce in the winter. It all balances out with the credits."
Solar Energy in Michigan?
Actually, yeah! While The Mitten only comes in 35th on the 2021 sunniest states list, and we only get an average of 170 sunny days per year, there are plenty of reasons to soak up the sun's energy here.
- One of the most popular incentives for going solar in Michigan was the state's favorable net metering policy, which required utilities to give back full credit for any surplus of energy produced. (That policy has since changed, but we are hopeful Michigan will reintroduce the policy, or perhaps an even better one, to make solar more affordable once again).
- The high price of electricity in Michigan makes for a strong incentive to go solar. At $0.14/kWh, Michigan is above the national average.
- Michigan was rated 15th best in the country for return on investment but 38th for the adoption of solar. Actually, Michigan has more sunlight per year than Germany, yet Germany led the world in solar power produced per capita until 2014.
- Solar panels work better when cold, making Michigan's latitude and climate excellent for solar production. Find out more here.
BizStream's Solar Set Up
Our team started planning for this project back in 2019. With the guidance of Altenergy Inc., BizStream landed on 224 solar modules. The system is expected to offset 95% of traditional electrical usage and produce 88,977kW annually.
(Solar setup prototype during the planning phase)
(Installation of BizStream's solar panels)
Check out the final installation with Altenergy's drone footage.
Should You Go Solar?
There are many factors to keep in mind when considering moving to solar energy. The incentives and grant opportunities seem to be forever changing, and of course, they will depend on your location. Altenergy did a lot of the leg work when it came to finding the best grants to apply for, navigating the latest laws and regulations, and working with the utility company to get everything squared away. If you're located in Virginia, Idaho, Maryland, DC, or Michigan, we highly recommend consulting with them. If you're located in a different state, we'd suggest finding a reputable company that will advocate for you and help you navigate your project.
Our ultimate goal is to get entirely off the grid, allowing us to avoid blackouts during storms, downtime during maintenance work, etc. However, it financially doesn't make sense for BizStream to do so at this time due to the high costs of batteries. Advancements in traditional battery technology have been slow-moving up until the last few decades. In the past few years, though, scientists worldwide continue to look into many alternative battery technologies, even one's that harness plant waste energy! That seems promising, right?! Either way, we're keeping an eye on battery advancements and hope to utilize them when the time and technology are right for us.