A Big Fat Zero

Hudson Valley Clean Energy builds New York’s first “zero net energy” commercial property for itself — proving they can do it for you, too



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Hudson Valley Clean Energy main building
Green building saves greenbacks: HVCE’s headquarters has an annual energy bill of less than $300

Photograph courtesy of Hudson Valley Clean Energy

3 Myths Debunked

The new headquarters is more than just an energy-efficient office; it also serves as the company’s showroom. “One of the biggest misconceptions about alternative energy is that the technology doesn’t work,” Wright says. “Potential customers can come here to touch and feel and see it in operation. It really puts that idea to rest.”

Wright has sound arguments for several other misconceptions as well, starting with the financial one. “People think it takes 25 years to make back your money, but with new construction, the break-even point is immediate,” he says. “Once you finance the extra upfront costs of this technology into the mortgage, your lower utility costs far outweigh the higher mortgage payment.”

There are also a variety of tax credits, rebates, and low-interest financing options to help defray costs. NYSERDA, for example, paid for about 40 percent of the PV installation, says NYSERDA spokesman Tom Lynch.

Retrofitting an existing home or commercial property is more costly, Wright admits, but far from a financial drain. “We use various models, and all of them are cash-flow positive after four to 10 years,” he says. Plus, there is dollar-for-dollar residual value. “If you spend $30,000 on one of our systems, your property is immediately worth $30,000 more,” he claims.

He’s even ready to debunk the belief that there isn’t enough sunshine in the northeastern United States to generate all those precious kilowatts. “Here in the Hudson Valley, we get 4.5 sun-hours a day over a year. Germany, the biggest PV market in the world, gets 3.5 sun-hours,” he says. “We get more than enough sunshine to generate heat and hot water.”

Though HVCE is the first zero net commercial building in the state (and it may be the first in all of New England, says Lynch; “It’s hard to know because no one really keeps track of that information”), it certainly won’t be the last. HVCE has begun working mainly with residential builders to create zero net homes, several of which are in Ulster County. But they are also in negotiations with commercial clients who are looking into following their lead. “We expect to see more and more of these buildings each year,” says Lynch.

Here Comes the Sun — Government-Certified

Twenty to 30 years ago, when PV power first became viable, it was — like many new technologies — fraught with problems. “Many systems were installed poorly, and that gave the industry a black eye,” says NYSERDA spokesman Tom Lynch.

Today, NYSERDA certifies all reputable PV and other alternative-energy installers to ensure they have the necessary skills and that their systems produce the maximum number of kilowatts. “These are significant capital investments, and we want to make sure they work well,” Lynch says.

To find a NYSERDA-certified installer, visit their Web site, www.nyserda.org.

 

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