2013: The Year of Performance

by Frank Sherman,

2012 ends as a year of uncertainty. Uncertainty about the political landscape, uncertainty about climate change, and uncertainty about business have weighed heavily on our clients minds. At least the Mayan calendar did not end. What is certain is that 2013 looks to be a good year.

Energy plays a significant role as we look ahead to 2013. It is fuels and impedes business success. It causes global climate change yet holds many of the solutions to this crisis. The politics of energy reflect the transformation that is happening throughout our economy. Old ways are dying and old industries and business practices are becoming relics relegated to the LA Brea Tar Pits of time. The more entrenched businesses and industries become, the more they sink into the past. Innovation, technology, and new economic models are creating the next generation of great businesses, and their approach to energy is critical to their success.

Alpine is a forward looking company. We look at 2013 as a year for performance and it reflects our optimism for all the business opportunity we see across the country. We sense this in conversations with our clients and our colleagues. Businesses are looking ahead and planning for long term growth and success. 2013 looks like it will be the year of the long play, where smart investments position businesses for future success. Here are a few trends to take advantage of in 2013.

He Who Generates the Energy, Profits from the Energy. The Renewables Industry has made huge strides in the past few years and is transforming many sectors of our economy. Solar and wind are maturing technologies. Efficiencies are improving, systems are becoming more dependable, and costs are dropping dramatically. In many parts of the country solar is a smart investment.

Generating energy onsite has many advantages. Solar and wind are free resources for generating electricity that offsets electricity you otherwise pay for. Dollar for dollar, you come out ahead if you can generate electricity onsite. Many businesses are looking at rising future costs and investing their energy dollars in systems where costs are lower and predictable. We work with clients to make this easy and affordable as part of comprehensive strategy to improve business performance.

There are other options for generating energy onsite besides solar and wind. Microturbines and cogeneration is proving to be another cost effective strategy for managing energy costs, even for small and midsized businesses. The key to profiting from onsite energy generation is being smart about available energy resources and technology.

Conservation is like Gold. Moving forward, waste is the next great untapped resource. We generate plenty of it in all forms, especially energy. Visionary thinker Amory Lovins coined the term Negawatt Power in 1989, and slowly people have come to see its value. But now the gold rush is on!

Wasted energy costs businesses money, a lot of money. By some estimates 30%-50% of the energy used is ultimately wasted, costing businesses many thousands of dollars. Implementing an energy conservation program harvests those lost dollars all the while making businesses more profitable and successful. A good plan is strategic, incremental, and resourceful. Businesses of all sizes are benefiting from this type of planning by using inhouse resources and outside expertise. We spend a lot of time talking to clients about the business benefits of energy conservation, and see this as a major trend in 2013.

Energy Performance is the New Status Symbol. Businesses that “get it” now want to flaunt it, and that can be good for the brand. We are seeing more and more companies talking about energy conservation successes and the positive impact it is having on their business. They understand it is important to stock holders, investors and to their customers. Whether energy conservation is being socially responsible, or being green, it helps connect customers to their brand. It is smart business, and everyone likes to show how smart they are.

Energy performance as status symbol is being propelled by forward looking cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles that now require large buildings to benchmark and report energy use. New York City recently released data on building energy performance and it is instructive to see who the energy winners and losers are. In a hyper competitive market such as New York, operating out of a building with outstanding energy performance is a business status symbol.

Winning like the Biggest Loser. Coming out a recession where many businesses went under and most struggled to survive, making your business stronger and more resilient gives you a competitive advantage. Our fascination with reality-TV weight loss shows can provide us with some real world business wisdom. There is a lot of excess energy to be conserved, like excess fat to be lost, in buildings and building operations. The process takes commitment, perseverance, and is not without a certain amount of sacrifice and difficulty. The effort makes your business healthier and stronger. Some are able to do it themselves, but often we need a good coach to help us achieve our goal.

2013 is going to be the year for finding your energy coach, developing a plan to trim energy use and making your business healthier, stronger, and more competitive. Each business needs its own plan with goals that make sense. Increasingly, businesses are talking to us about being their energy coach. We see this trend continuing.

In spite of all the uncertainty in the nation as I write this, there is a growing optimism that 2013 is going to be a good year. Businesses are ready to do what it takes to succeed in the long term. Innovation, new technology, new business models, and new metrics for success are popping up everywhere. Businesses are harvesting energy savings to invest in the future. The biggest winners are making smart investments in energy conservation and technology. Expertise is out there with the tools and the resources to help businesses make smart energy choices. Find your energy coach. Perform like a champion and don’t hesitate to show it.


Frank Sherman is an architect and green consultant based in Philadelphia PA. Frank is East Coast managing partner of Alpine Green Solutions, a national green building and energy efficiency consulting company, and maintains a design and consulting practice Terrain Consulting+Design focused on green building design and construction. Frank is a green building expert, educator with Cleanedison, and aspiring beekeeper.

Solar Now Makes Sense

solar1Renewable Energy made huge strides in 2012 and will continue to grow in 2013. The price of installed systems keeps falling and now it makes good sense for small business owners and residential customers to invest in solar. In California and much of the Southwest, solar has become a winning proposition.

Nowhere is renewable energy’s success more evident than in the political howlings of the status-quo energy industry who would prefer solar and wind not compete with the fossil fuel-based infrastructure currently in place across the nation. The saying is true: “A good measure of your success is the number of detractors you attract”.

All successful established technologies in this Country started out as upstarts in competition with the dominant tyechnology of the day. Some were better able to compete, some leap-frogged their way to the head of the pack. Most benefited from subsidies and other forms of support from the Government. In the energy arena, oil & gas, nuclear, biofuels and renewables have and continue to be subsidized Federally. Lately a number of folks are questioning why the hugely profitable Oil & Gas Industry recieves the continued levels of subsidies that they do. Attention has been drawn to this issue primarily because of the howling of the anti solar and anti-wind lobby.

Be that as it may, the following repost, from Clean Technica, illustrates that in spite of the percieved inequity of support for renewables, solar and wind are becoming mainstream competitors in the energy industry, and customers stand to benefit from their success. The cost of solar and wind will continue to drop in the future as the price of oil & gas will continue to rise.

The lesson to be learned here is that he (or she) who generates the energy profits from the energy. Now more than ever, it makes sense for small business owners and home owners to invest in renewable energy systems. They are affordable, reliable, and can generate clean, cheap, and dependable energy for years to come.

A Thought on Subsidies

Via Clean Technica. By Zachary Shahan

Anti-wind and anti-solar folks (yes, there are a few out there — mostly tied to the fossil fuel industry) love to bring up renewable energy subsidies. However, there are so many reasons why they really shouldn’t be eager to do so. For example, fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies dwarf renewable energy subsidies.historical energy subsidies nuclear oil renewable energy

energy subsidies

Additionally, many indirect subsidies never even get counted in most subsidy analyses — such as the tremendous extent to which we subsidize oil through our military and the tremendous health externalities not included in the price of fossil fuels (neither of which are included in the price of fossil fuels).

But there’s another point which gets even less attention. Here’s a reader comment that I thought was worth a repost:

Yes, we have supported oil, wind and solar with subsidies. Look how that’s played out.

Wind, 30 years ago, produced electricity at $0.38/kWh. Now it’s producing at $0.04/kWh to $0.06/kWh and on its way down to $0.03/kWh in the near future. (Already, we’ve seen a 9.5x drop.)

Solar panels, 30-40 years ago, cost as much as $100/watt. Solar panels are now being manufactured for prices approaching $0.50/watt.  (That’s almost a 200x price drop.)

Oil, in 1946, was $18.89 a barrel (2012/current dollars) and in 2012 it’s running about $100 a barrel. (More than a 5x increase.)

Support for oil might have kept prices from rising further, but it has not made oil cheaper.

Support for wind and solar have made them much cheaper. Our investments are returning massive dividends.

Wind has gone down to 1/6th its early price, solar to 1/100th, and oil has risen by more than 5x. Exactly how has that oil subsidy worked out for us?

Image Credits: Climate Progress


Americans Used Less Energy in 2011

Americans Used Less Energy in 2011, & More Renewable Energy (via Clean Technica)

  A new study released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) shows that renewable energy use in the U.S was up for 2011, while overall energy use was down. The decrease in energy use was partly due to more higher-efficiency energy technologies in the transportation and residential…

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Fields Northfield Volvo Awarded LEED Silver

It’s Official!  Fields Volvo Northfield has been awarded LEED Silver Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Fields Volvo Northfield is Volvo North America’s first LEED Certified facility, and the newest addition to the Fields Auto Group’s award winning family of dealerships.

Fields customers expect quality and performance from the cars they sell. Now customers can expect the same quality from the service and facilities they operate. LEED Certification is the benchmark for environmental performance and design, and Fields new facility at 770 Frontage Road in Northfield is a shining example of quality design and performance worthy of the Volvo name.

When it comes to fuel economy the building is as efficient as the cars they sell. The new facility uses 35% less energy than a normal building of its size. It generates over 5% of the electricity it needs annually from solar panels located on the roof of the facility and from  wind turbines mounted in a rain garden next to the service lounge.

When it comes to water, the building does its share not to waste a precious community resource. The facility will collect almost 468,000 gallons of rainwater a year and uses that water to flush toilets and irrigate the site. They are able to reduce the amount of public water we use by a whopping 81%! You can see the water storage tanks outside the facility, and there is an additional tank under the garden that allows Northfield Volvo to store 14,000 gallons of rainwater at a time.

Not only do they harvest rainwater to use in their facility, but they also have installed low-flow plumbing fixtures to conserve as much water as possible. Together, these systems help Northfield Volvo save water and money while helping the community and the environment.

Good design, safety, and quality construction are hallmarks of Volvo automobiles. Fields new facility reflects the same commitment to design, safety and quality.

Their new building is designed to take advantage of natural daylight, and uses advanced lighting technology to showcase its cars and create a pleasing environment. They use high efficiency fluorescent and LED lighting, sensors and controls, and provide daylight throughout the facility. The building is heated and cooled using highly efficient equipment in ways that provides comfort to customers and employees, all controlled by a system designed to save energy.

The new building is healthy and safe by design. They made sure to use materials that are non-toxic and promote good indoor air quality. During construction, they followed a plan designed to protect workers and employees, as well as the building itself from mold, moisture and contaminates. The materials and finishes they chose for the new facility release little or no contaminates that pollute the building.

Fields worked closely with the design team and general contractor to insure that the construction of our new facility met high standards for quality and environmental responsibility. 95% of the building waste generated during the construction of the new facility was recycled and diverted from going to a landfill, and over 26% of the materials used in the building have recycled content.

51% of the materials came from local and regional manufactures, which reduces the pollution caused when shipping materials and helps support the regional economy. They made sure that most of the wood used throughout the building came from certified sources that sustainably manage and protect our forests.

Northfield Auto Group is proud of our award for environmental responsible design and construction of their new Northfield Volvo dealership. LEED Silver Certification demonstrates their commitment, as well as Volvo North America’s commitment to providing  customers with the quality and performance they expect. We invite you to come see their new facility for yourself. Tour the building, take a test drive, and see why Fields Northfield Volvo is a leader in sales and service; and now a leader in environmental responsibility.