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Reviewing Renewable Energy Technology

I'm Steve Schuster, associate editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is renewable energy technology.

From 2000 to 2009, electricity prices rose on average 4 percent annually, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In that same period, inflation only rose an average of 2.5 percent annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If energy prices continue to outpace inflation, on-site renewable energy will make more sense as a long-term investment.

Many organizations, particularly those in the public and institutional sectors, already use renewable-energy technologies. Due to falling materials prices and lucrative tax and utility incentives, many private-sector clients are beginning to follow suit.

Managers should note that all renewable-energy technologies have drawbacks. For example, photovoltaics and wind turbines can produce electricity only with the presence of sun or wind, which are intermittent and do not necessarily match facility needs for consumption. Despite these concerns, a well-managed portfolio of renewable-energy technology also offers many benefits. Falling prices for these systems, coupled with rising electricity prices and lucrative tax and utility incentives, mean a growing number of facilities can benefit from renewable-energy components.

In evaluating renewable components using a life-cycle assessment, most clients can benefit from some sort of renewable technology. For public and institutional clients, paybacks usually are 15 years or shorter, with net present values (NPV) eclipsing those of other investment options. For private-sector clients, typical paybacks are five-seven years.


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