From IPhones to EVs? Apple Wants to Produce Electric Cars

March 3, 2015 by

According to a recent article, Apple has secretly been working on an electric vehicle (EV) and is pushing to begin production as early as 2020.

With such a quick timeframe and aggressive goal (automakers usually spend five to seven years developing a new car), Apple is potentially setting the stage for direct competition with Tesla Motors and General Motors, both of which are targeting a 2017 release of an EV that can go more than 200 miles on a single charge and cost less than $40,000.

“That’s the inflection point — the proving ground — that brings on the electric age,” Steve LeVine, author of “The Powerhouse,” a book about the automotive battery industry, said on Bloomberg TV. “Now you have Apple coming in and this is critical mass. Was GM really going to be able to match Tesla? Apple can.”

Apple EVApple, which posted record profit of $18B during the past quarter, has $178B in cash with few avenues to spend it. The Cupertino, California-based company’s R&D costs were $6.04B in the past year, and CEO Tim Cook is facing increased pressure to return cash to shareholders. The CEO has been pushing the iPhone maker to enter new categories to further envelop users’ digital lives with Apple’s products and services.

Also according to the article, Apple has been assembling an automotive team for the project by aggressively poaching employees from A123 Systems, a Waltham, Massachusetts-based battery maker. Apple has also hired battery experts from LG Chem, Samsung Electronics, Panasonic, Toshiba, and Johnson Controls. And, Tesla CEO Elon Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek that Apple was seeking to hire away his workers, offering $250,000 signing bonuses and 60 percent salary increases.

Apple is following the same path with EVs that it has taken with other products when breaking into a new industry. For example, the company wasn’t the first to make a digital-music player or smart phone; it only entered those markets once it had a product that redefined those categories.

Some parts of the automotive industry seem unfazed by Silicon Valley’s increasing interest in the market and even view it as a positive thing.

“We’re not afraid of these new competitors,” said Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn. “The opposite is true: they encourage us to look more intensively into the chances of the digital world.”

To read the complete story, check out the full article.

Keeping Pace with PACE

February 12, 2015 by

Property-assessed clean energy (PACE) loan programs for residential and commercial sectors exploded in 2014. According to a recent article, there was nearly $1B available for PACE projects in 2014, with more to come in 2015 as states create new legislation and expand programs.PACE loans

PACE programs allow investments in energy-efficiency retrofits and distributed renewable generation to be paid back through property taxes, which lowers the risk for lenders and owners and creates significant growth for the energy efficiency market. Most of the residential and commercial projects focus on energy efficiency upgrades but a quarter of the commercial projects include renewable energy.

California leads the pack when it comes to PACE. The article, based on PACENow research, states that California completed $500M in residential PACE projects for around 25,000 homes in 2014. The commercial market closed about $100M in completed projects, with another $400M in the pipeline. This was up from about $60M in 2013.

California also has some of the most interesting PACE developments coming in 2015, including legislation that will mitigate the risk to mortgage lenders for losses related to PACE liens in foreclosure situations.

Other states such as Texas, Utah, Illinois, Colorado, and Florida are expected to significantly expand commercial programs in 2015. There are also legislative efforts underway for program expansion in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Georgia.

Big players in securitizing PACE loans include CaliforniaFirst, who plans to offer upgrades not only for energy but also for water Brandsmart PACEefficiency, and the Ygrene Energy Fund, who operates in California, Florida, and now Georgia. Read how BrandsMart USA in South Dade County, Florida saved 35% on its annual utility costs with no upfront costs through a PACE project with the Ygrene Energy Fund and ABM Building Solutions.

Check out the full article to get more detailed information and see a list of states with PACE legislation.

Super Bowl Champions Solar and Renewable Energy

February 6, 2015 by

The Super Bowl offers something for everyone — championship football, entertaining commercials, over-the-top half-time show, and a reason to party! And last Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX was no exception. The well-matched teams and exciting outcome were a big draw for millions of viewers. But did you know:

  • The hosting University of Phoenix Stadium was drawing on 100% renewable power to offset the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the eventsolar super bowl
  • This was the first ever Super Bowl venue to be illuminated by high-performance LED stadium lights
  • The home fields of both Super Bowl teams– Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts and CenturyLink Field in Seattle — feature large solar power systems
  • The Super Bowl was the fourth time in three years a major professional sports championship included teams that have invested significantly in solar energy

So no matter who you were cheering for on Super Bowl Sunday, the clear winner was sustainability!

In fact, more and more sports teams and organizations today are embracing green technology. According to a recent SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) study on solar in sports, all leading professional sports leagues in the U.S. — including football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, and NASCAR — have made significant investments in solar power.

The SEIA research found 25 stadiums, arenas, and raceways in 12 states – that are home to 27 professional sports teams — now have either a solar photovoltaic (PV) or solar hot water system, with construction underway at two additional stadiums. Put in perspective, last year nearly 30 million sports fans attended events across the U.S. at facilities powered by the sun.

The first professional sports team to install a solar system was the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in 2007. The San Francisco Giants followed suit a few months later at AT&T Park. Since then, the number of solar systems in pro sports has grown 10-fold, with nearly 120,000 solar panels in use across the country at sports facilities.

For more on how solar is changing the game for sports venues, and the complete list of solar installationssuper bowl winner is sustainability at U.S. sports facilities ranked by kilowatt capacity, read the full article Solar for the Win: A Study on Solar in U.S. Professional Sports.





Upgrades Slash Orange County, VA Public Schools’ Operating and Energy Costs

January 29, 2015 by

Orange County VA Schools Energy SavingsSchools in Orange, Virginia have found an innovative way to save money. By applying state-of-the-art energy efficiency upgrades to their buildings, they were able to dramatically cut energy use and operational costs. During the implementation period of the project, several Orange County Public Schools reduced energy consumption by nearly $300,000 – a much higher savings during the construction period than originally projected.

The 18-month improvement project was performed by ABM Energy & Building Solutions and included building envelope improvements, lighting enhancements, HVAC equipment, control upgrades, and more. The project is set to create savings of $9.2 million over a 15 year period. To date, the projected savings is $297,669. The original projected savings was for $130,000 during the construction period.

The energy improvements fall within a state-sponsored energy conservation program that allows school divisions to make energy efficiency and infrastructure improvements to their facilities and use the costs savings to pay for those improvements. Through its Bundled Energy Solutions (BES) offering, ABM assisted the Orange County Public Schools in the utilization of the program to perform the vital facility upgrades. The majority of the savings in Orange County have gone toward paying back the contract fees, and the increased efficiency is expected to continue after the financial obligation is satisfied.

Because of the success of the project, the school board is considering adding a second phase to the project that will make improvements to more schools in the Orange County Public Schools division as well as the sports center. This phase could produce up to an additional $90,000 in energy savings and approximately 19% improvement.

Read the original article for more details.

Lighting Retrofits Brighten Parking Garage EV Benefits

January 13, 2015 by


EV Charging StationsAs electric vehicles (EV) become more mainstream, many parking facility owners want to install EV charging stations as a convenience for their employees and tenants, a revenue-generating amenity for customers, and a competitive differentiator for their business. However, cost is a big hindrance, as well as other factors such as electrical capacity and availability of funding.

Lighting upgrades can shed light on this problem and provide an innovative solution! Through a lighting makeover, facilities can take advantage of the latest high-efficiency lighting technology to reduce the overall electricity load of a parking facility, allowing for EV charging stations to be installed without having to replace or rewire the existing electrical system. At the same time, high-efficiency lighting and automated controls can significantly reduce energy use and cut utility bills almost in half. And with the right service provider, it can be done with zero impact to your existing operating budget!

A recent article by the Green Parking Council highlights how the City of Oakland did just this at one of their most popular parking facilities. Partnering with full-service EVSE and energy solution provider ABM, the city reduced energy use by 45 percent and off-set the electric grid enough to implement several EV charging stations. And, by leveraging federal and local energy incentives as well as ABM’s creative low-interest financing, the city was able to pay for the entire project with its guaranteed utility cost savings. There was no upfront capital required, and they were able to contribute positive cash flow to the existing budget.

Read the full Green Parking Council article for more details.