Can COVID-19 Make Us More Health-Conscious and Environmentally Aware (for Good)?

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Can COVID-19 Make Us More Health-Conscious and Environmentally Aware (for Good)?

June 1, 2020

For all the havoc COVID-19 has wreaked on human lives, some have noted that bringing traffic to a virtual standstill has at least one benefit from a dire tragedy. Fewer cars mean cleaner air and cleaner air is healthful. This might save lives in the midst of a pandemic that impacts people’s lungs. In this way, the pandemic underscores the importance of keeping pollution reduction goals on track. At Ampion, we believe cleaner air is a vital component of public health and safety. But are the effects of the virus really doing anything for our environment? The answer is: Yes, no, and it all depends. Let’s take a look.

Breath of Fresh Air: It’s Safer to Breathe Now.

While it’s nearly impossible to praise anything related to this virus and ensuing tragedy, we can praise many of our governors’ responses to it. And we can note that urban air quality improved internationally when people avoided transportation for a while. This is the conclusion drawn from new air quality research examining high-smog cities worldwide, Los Angeles and New York City included. Check out L.A. with crystal clear skies! Meanwhile, NASA found 30% less nitrogen dioxide emitted over the Northeastern U.S. region in March 2020.

Our lives have changed to adapt to the dangers we’ve faced in 2020. We’re showing we can change our lives to deal with hazards and increase our safety. That said, we don’t want to have a pandemic — with its illness, job losses, and social disconnections — to attain breathable air. The way to a sustainable environment for all isn’t to react to emergencies. The better way is to help those who need us, to learn what we must from upheaval, and strive for stronger policies and practices that keep our environment clean while still keeping people working and playing.

An Effect That’s Less Discussed: People Are Fleeing the Cities.

With lockdown orders being lifted, people are returning to all the things they were doing before that contributed to air pollution. And greenhouse emissions are likely to rebound with a vengeance if we haven’t acted to change fuel sources. The price of fuel has dropped during this health emergency, which will create even more emissions.

But there’s more. People who can afford to leave apartments, condos and townhouses in the big cities for larger homes in out-of-the-way places are doing so. They are leaving denser city life because of COVID-19, and many of them do not expect to return to urban living after the restrictions ease. Once at home in the suburbs, they’ll be driving more, and burning more fossil fuels to run their homes. In truth, one way they can offset the emissions impact of the exodus to suburbia is to embrace community solar!

The Way Ahead: Community Solar – Change That Lasts

We’re here to facilitate the lasting transformation of our energy grid. At Ampion, our job is to help everyone know there’s a new way to see electricity — not just in emergencies, but for good. Community solar projects support a healthier, stronger community by lowering carbon emissions, saving people money and supporting local economic development.

Why should it be just wishful thinking to want lower pollution levels and beautiful urban vistas to last beyond the public health crisis? We’re not just wishing. We’re working to make healthful energy use the norm. And we constantly promote an economic stimulus effect for clean energy suppliers who help people and their economies thrive. Contact us to join the shift to solar, and let’s help make cleaner skies and clearer air prevail all while supporting local economies and communities.

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Can Renewable Energy Help the Pandemic Recovery Efforts?

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Can Renewable Energy Help the Pandemic Recovery Efforts?

May 8, 2020

We envision a future in which everyone participates in the clean energy movement, and local economies thrive on it. Today, we’re looking at how renewable energy fits into communities’ successful recovery from the COVID-19 shutdowns. Millions of people have had to stay at home in our collective effort to slow the spread of the virus, and many have filed for COVID-19 unemployment benefits. New York is the hardest hit of all in the pandemic, yet the push by the state to accelerate renewable energy projects will boost New Yorkers’ opportunities to regain life-sustaining income.

New York’s Supercharges Its Renewable Energy Sector

New York is striving to source 70% of its electricity from renewables, following the guidance and timelines in the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). This is why New York passed a budget amendment to enact its Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act.

Under new, pioneering legislation:

    • New York’s Public Service Commission can provide discounts on utility bills to residents of communities with clean energy projects.
    • The state’s newly created Office of Renewable Energy Permitting, situated in the Department of Economic Development, will support reclamation of unused industrial sites, job creation, and the development of a well-functioning energy grid.
    • Solar projects will further expand the Empire State’s outstanding growth over the past decade in solar power.

New York has established a model for the region and the country, with one of the strongest clean energy initiatives of any state, intended to arrive at carbon-neutrality and zero-carbon electricity for all industries and residents by 2040—a feat that would solidify New York as one of the the country’s leading climate champions.

Without doubt, green energy jobs are critical to support, having already risen at more than double the state’s overall rate, and constituting some 150,000 jobs for New Yorkers. Indeed, solar jobs across the country have increased five times the rate of overall job growth over the past five years.

How Community Solar Increases the Resilience in Regional Economies

The creation of a solar project bolsters the use of local workers and services, and brings customers to the surrounding community’s businesses. The economic benefits continue as the energy becomes available and affects electricity costs. And availability can be very quick: the solar sector’s speed in scaling up and turning on the power is a key factor in its tremendous growth.

Then there is the connection between health and resilience. A Harvard study detected a higher death rate from COVID-19 in communities with more air pollution, scientifically connecting fuel exhaust and human resilience. The researchers studied people long exposed to pollution generated from the burning of fuels, including at power plants. Their findings further affirm the proven links between air pollution and higher risks of hospitalizations and deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. This highlights yet another way community solar projects support stronger communities, by bringing immediate reductions in carbon emissions. The solar energy sector is also attuned to strong health-related standards including best practices for flattening the curve of viral spread.

Keeping Solar Power on the Growth Track Makes Us Stronger

A record year was projected for the solar energy sector. Then came COVID-19. Now, given the commitment of state policymakers like New York’s, solar power will stay on track, to help people regain their economic and physical health and safety. At Ampion, we’re here to help make it happen. We engage and support the regional clean energy suppliers who help people and regional economies thrive.

The challenge we face today only strengthens our resolve to connect people with community energy. Contact us with any questions or sign-up for community solar to join this vital trend.

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Environmental Benefits of Solar Energy

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Environmental Benefits of Solar Energy

March 2, 2020

Climate change poses a threat to our environment that increases every day. Traditional electricity companies generate power through fossil fuel combustion, which is a significant cause of greenhouse gas emissions. The fossil fuels that power companies rely on are coal, natural gas, and oil.

The extent to which electricity produces harmful carbon emissions relates to the amount of power that households use. Power companies look at customer demand in determining electricity generation needs. Changing weather conditions throughout the year have a direct impact on household electricity consumption, and the extent to which that usage contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Adverse Impact of Electric Power Plants on Our Environment

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2018, 65% of the nation’s total electricity production came from fossil fuel sources. The data for 2019 hasn’t yet been released. The greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity use aren’t limited to the pollutants that power plants emit from energy generation. The methods that companies use to get fossil fuels (such as mining for coal, drilling for oil, and underground gas pipelines) harm the environment.

The way by which these fossil fuel providers get supplies to energy companies (trucks, trains, barges) rely on traditional fuel sources. And power plants that use traditional (non-renewable) techniques to generate electricity use fossil fuels to produce it. The continuing cycle of getting fossil fuels from natural resources, transporting them to power plants, and electricity generation represent a significant source of carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.

What Are the Benefits of Solar Power on Climate Change?

· Solar power is clean energy because solar panels harness energy from the sun and convert it into electricity.

· Solar power doesn’t emit toxic chemicals the way fossil fuels do when they combust to generate electricity.

· Solar power (from solar panels in community solar projects) doesn’t contaminate water, pollute the air, or emit greenhouse gases. · Solar power can supply surplus power to the grid, assisting traditional power plants, and lessening their need to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity.

· With solar power, you can instantly reduce your household’s carbon footprint.

· Solar power reduces your reliance on grid electricity, which is primarily generated from fossil fuels.

· Community Solar projects make it possible for any residential utility customer to get a portion of their power from renewable sources without having to worry about the affordability of solar panels, installing them, or maintaining them.

Signing up to join a community solar project is easy to do. It’s a small change you can make to have a more significant impact on reducing your household and family’s carbon footprint. Community solar projects give residential utility customers access to solar power without the financial or maintenance burden associated with rooftop solar panel systems.

When you can save money on your monthly and yearly energy bills while lowering your household carbon footprint in a quest to combat climate change, you have every reason to participate in a community solar project. Contact Ampion to learn more about our projects and their environmental benefits and to sign up to join a community solar project.

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How does distributed solar energy generation work?

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How does distributed solar energy generation work?

February 18, 2020

Our energy network is dominated by very large power plants that generate tremendous amount of electricity, typically powered by fossil fuels or occasionally nuclear. These large plants are a necessary component of the grid as it exists today but have a number of draw-backs. They are often located far from the end-consumer, relying complex and expensive transmission networks which also have meaningful environmental impacts.

A growing alternative to the utility-scale power plant is distributed energy generation. Solar power is one high-profile example. Here’s how it works, and its role in the future of energy. 

What Is Distributed Generation? 

Distributed generation refers to smaller-scale energy generation, typically located closer to where the energy it generates is actually consumed.  It bypasses high voltage transmission networks and connects energy supply directly into the local grid.  

How Does Distributed Generation Help the Grid? 

Distributed generation has a number of benefits.  One is that it reduces the amount of energy lost as it travels long distances, often hundreds of miles, from generation to the end consumer.  These efficiency benefits reduce our collective need for additional energy sources. 

A second important benefit is that distributed generation promotes grid resiliency. In plain terms, major blackouts become less likely because there are more sources of power and fewer single points of failure. Because DG systems are simpler and closer, there is just less to go wrong overall.  

Finally, DG often brings environmental benefits as well.  Often clean, renewable sources of energy are chosen for local generation in part because local communities would not accept the local pollution that fossil fuel energy plants would generate.  

What Are Some Examples of Distributed Generation? 

Common examples include: 

    • Solar arrays. A solar array of panels can power one community or several through community solar farms. 

    • Wind turbines.Small wind turbines may offset some or all energy use in residential areas, farms, schools, businesses, and public places. 

    • Biomass generators: Biomass or waste combustion, and the use of biomass-fired fuel cells, can convert materials into energy instead of letting them go to waste. 

    • Electric vehicle chargers. A car powered by its owner is an example of distributed energy, too! 

Some relevant technologies, notably including biomass combustion, need
large amounts of water for steam production and for cooling, and might
other environmental drawbacks. 

Community Solar: A Great Distributed Energy Option 

As more people embrace community solar, utility plants dependent on coal or other nonrenewables are replaced—and emissions are reduced. 

Learn more about community solar and how it works. Ready to start? It’s easy to sign up, contribute to a cleaner future, and start receiving your credits.

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Support a green tomorrow with community solar

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Making a dent in one’s carbon footprint feels daunting. One impactful way to take action is also among the easiest, Community Solar. Also known as “solar farms” or “solar gardens”, community solar allows residential users of electricity to support green energy. Renters and homeowners alike are eligible and there is no up-front equipment to buy and install. Subscribing to Community Solar requires about five minutes of effort to complete.

Growing awareness of global climate change has caused many to wonder how they can reduce their carbon footprint and participate in the change required to reduce the negative effects of a warming planet. The available options often don’t seem meaningful or are so difficult or expensive as to not seem feasible.

One impactful option is also among the easiest, Community Solar. Also known as “solar farms” or “solar gardens”, community solar allows residential users of electricity to support green energy. Because it’s a subscription, having an impact is available to almost everyone. Renters and homeowners alike are eligible and there is no up-front equipment to buy and install. A simple application process is all it takes.

How Big of an Impact Does It Have?

Making a dent in one’s carbon footprint feels daunting. So much is built into our daily lives and reductions feel like big changes to how one lives their life. Turning off lights and eating less meat is virtuous, but doesn’t feel like it moves the dial. Electricity usage is a significant source of household emissions, estimated at 15% or more. That’s a lot to take out in one quick decision. It’s the equivalent of taking a car off the road for a year!

How Does It Work?

Available to most residential users of electricity, subscribing to Community Solar requires about five minutes of effort to complete. Most farms, including those represented by Ampion, require a current utility bill and payment information.

  • Based upon historical energy usage, subscribers are given a share of the farm. The intent is to offset accurately a full year of electricity usage.
  • Once the farm is up and running, subscribers receive credits for their share of the energy produced by the site and in so doing, reduce the amount of fossil fuel generated electricity that is required.
  • Those credits appear on the subscribers utility bill, reducing the overall amount. Sometimes utility bills are zero balance.
  • Separately, Ampion invoices for those credits, typically at a 10% discount from their value. The benefit is enabled by state incentives support the growth of Community Solar as an alternative.

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How does community solar work?

How does community solar work
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How does community solar work?

January 3, 2020

Community solar farms are providing people with a new way to benefit from renewable energy. By subscribing to a community solar farm you earn credits for the solar power that the project generates. These “farms” make it possible for renters, condo owners, and homeowners, who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t want to install solar panels on their roofs or property. Their participation often reduces their annual electricity costs in the process.

People are interested in alternative energy for a variety of social, environmental, and financial reasons. But not everyone interested in solar power can generate their own electricity with photovoltaic panels on their home’s roof or property. Community solar farms are providing a new option.

What is Community Solar?

In a nutshell, community solar farms are projects where community members can become subscribers who earn credits for the solar power that the project generates. These “farms” make it possible for renters, condo owners, and homeowners, who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t want to install solar panels on their roofs or property. Their participation often reduces their annual electricity costs in the process.

How Does it Work?

  • You sign up to join a community solar farm in your area.
  • Ampion looks at your electricity use. Using this information, we assign you a share of the power generated by your local farm which results in credits on your utility bill.
  • The solar farm produces energy that is delivered to the grid
  • You receive your monthly utility bill that includes your solar energy credits. Those credits are deducted from what you owe your electric company.
  • The operator of the solar farm, in our case Ampion, bills you separately for the solar energy credits. These credits are typically billed at a discount, often 10% off. 

How You Save Money

  • We send you a bill that shows you your solar credits. Those credits are typically priced at 90% of their value (a 10% discount). The amount is set by the contract you sign and does not change over time.
  • Because we base the size of your share based on your twelve-month electricity usage, you can expect to save approximately 10% on your electricity bills when viewed on a annual basis. Variation in the output of the farm or changes in your usage may cause your actual savings to fluctuate modestly
  • Contracts are typically one or five years, but you can cancel with typically a 90-day notice at no cost to you.
  • Because community solar is supported by State programs, strong consumer protections are included in the contracts. For example, there are not teaser rates to worry about.
  • As long as you participate in the project, you’ll get monthly solar energy credits from your share of the community’s solar energy production.
  • You don’t have to switch your electric utility and if you move, you may be able to take your subscription with you.

There is no more natural way to lower your carbon footprint without having to break a sweat doing it. We hate dealing with the aftermath of Nor’easters or severe storms that are happening more often. The devastation left afterward disrupts everyone’s lives and wreaks havoc on our municipal services, utility services, and local business. Community solar farms can’t eliminate the inconveniences of weather catastrophes. However, they may lessen the impact and help cities and towns that have them recover faster.

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