An energy revolution is underway. Small businesses are now taking control of their energy costs by producing energy on their own. There’s no need to play second fiddle to big energy companies and be completely tied to a growing monthly bill.
This energy revolution isn’t just about solar – businesses are also taking advantage of geothermal, biomass, hydro, wind, or waste to energy.
How Do You Join This Revolution? Where Do You Start?
Every business is different.
But there are some things to consider no matter whether your project is large or small, whether you aim to use the energy yourself or sell it to another customer.
1) What’s Your Energy Demand?
Understanding energy demand is critical as it will define the size of your renewable energy project. If you have no use for the energy you produce, you’ll end up with an expensive novelty.
How much demand you have depends on whether you or an external customer are planning to use the energy. If it’s for your own use, look into net-metering programs in your area. If you’re planning on selling as a revenue stream, you’ll want to find a customer willing to sign a contract such as a Power Purchase Agreement.
Don’t forget that not all renewable energy is electricity. There are lots of opportunities to use clean heat from renewable energy too.
2) How Plentiful is Your Energy Resource?
This concept is simple enough. You need a raw energy resource such as sunshine, wind or a river to produce useful renewable energy.
If you are looking at solar, how much sun does your location get? With reducing costs, solar is now viable even in places we wouldn’t think of as “sunny”.
Do you have a creek or river with a steep channel section, or waterfall? In this case, you could consider a run-of-river hydro system.
Do you produce a lot of solid waste? One man’s trash is another woman’s waste-to-energy system.
3) Verify Your Business Case:
So, you have identified an energy demand that you can satisfy, and a suitable renewable energy resource to meet the demand.
Sounds like you’re ready to go?
There’s a bit more to it, you’ll soon see why.
To determine the business case for a renewable energy project, we need to understand the cost to build, finance and operate the project over its lifetime. We compare that to the revenues or cost reductions that the project brings.
At the end of the day, it makes sense to have a good return on investment, not just a reduction of your environmental footprint. If you don’t have a business case, consider investing elsewhere. There are plenty of renewable energy opportunities that will benefit your business, so why not find them.
4) Don’t Forget Your Permit Applications
Last but certainly not least, you need to get the permit green light for your project before you can go ahead.
If you’re planning on connecting to the electrical grid, you’ll need permits from the utility to make sure that it’s safe to connect to their system.
If your project has any environmental or visual footprint, be prepared for a lengthy application process for environmental or planning permits.
If you’re an entrepreneur looking to develop a revenue-generating project, you’ll need to approach landowners and get lease agreements in place for your venture.
Many projects die a slow death as the proponents wait for seemingly endless decision processes. Even processes with clear regulatory guidelines leave substantial discretion to the decision making bodies. It’s worth speaking to the relevant agencies and getting professional advice as early as you can so you know the chance of success. Permits may not always be granted, regardless of how good your business case may be.
Successful companies recognise the incremental nature of getting a renewable energy project off the ground and act accordingly. It’s important to be prudent – don’t spend too much on the project before all the hurdles have been cleared.
While there are challenges in getting started, clean energy may be one of the greatest business opportunities of our generation for those who are careful about minimising their risks. Cover these initial steps, and you’ll be on your way to building on the ground-breaking changes coming our way.
Seek the right advice from planning and renewable energy experts and you can join the Energy Revolution!