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Solar Energy Consumption on the Rise

Solar Energy

Renewable-energy consumption is at its highest in almost a century, and apartment communities are increasingly looking to adopt solar energy for their buildings.

Renewable-energy consumption in the United States saw year-to-year growth of 5 percent from 2001–2014 and equaled 9.8 percent of total consumption in 2014 — its highest level since the 1930s. Solar-energy consumption alone rose from 64 trillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2001 to 427 trillion Btu in 2014. And apartment communities are looking to expand solar-energy use with new construction and pilot programs.

Renewable energy has also been a focus of President Barack Obama’s administration. Tax credits helped incentivize consumer interest in energy-saving technology, and now the administration is calling for increased solar-energy use in federally subsidized housing, with a goal of 300 megawatts to be installed by 2020. The increased goal — up from an original target of 100 megawatts — supports the administration’s overall goals to increase renewable-energy use while also providing some access of such technology to low-income individuals. 

And some apartment communities are already doing this voluntarily. Solar power will provide 50 to 70 percent of residents’ heating, cooling and hot water utilities at SummerBridge at RockLedge, a 32-acre apartment community under construction in South Middleton Township, Pennsylvania. Forty-eight apartment homes are expected to come online in November, with a total of 298 units in the complex upon completion. This will make it the largest development in the Northeast to run on solar energy.

Residents who don’t live in a solar-powered building may also be able to gain access to solar energy through “solar garden” programs such as the one piloted in Minnesota by SolarCity Corp. The program will allow access to solar energy without having to install solar panels on a residence but will also remain attached to the grid for additional energy use. Users will pay a monthly bill, similar to other utilities, at a rate of about 13 cents a kilowatt-hour.