Before we started adding solar power to storage facilities in 2010, our investors often asked me what we were doing to take care of the environment. I spent at least six months persistently communicating the opportunities solar installations afforded Extra Space Storage to our senior leadership team.
Solar energy is now a big part of our corporate responsibility program to help offset our impact on the environment.
One of the things I’ve learned is that it’s just not as easy as simply saying, “I’m going to put solar here,” and then we go put solar there. Adding solar to a property takes about three to five months from the date the property is evaluated for solar to actual completion of the project. After receiving the proper local permits, we apply for an interconnection agreement, which allows us to connect to the grid, a vital part of how we’re lowering our utility bill! The net metering agreement with the power company is how we keep track of all that electricity moving around. After all the approvals and agreements, we can get down to the actual solar installation process.
We use 1st Light Energy, a valuable partner in helping us calculate and execute solar installations. After construction is complete, we connect solar to the local grid and turn the system live. Natural sunlight is the magical ingredient that can bring it all together for the formation of electricity. So far in 2012, we’ve completed 16 solar installations that were started last year and we completed installations in Ohio for the first time. With a careful blending of investor ROI with the environmental return, we’ve been very successful in reaching our goals with the solar program. I’ve seen substantial improvements in energy expenditures at the facilities where we’ve completed solar installations. In each state where we have a solar presence, energy costs have played a role in the decision to install solar. Even in the absence of strong state incentives, we’ve decided to install solar at several facilities in California, a state with one of the highest energy rates. Likewise, we’ve also installed solar in Hawaii, a state with no incentives for solar, but with a price of around 36 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for electricity. Whether it’s local, state or federal incentives we’re pursuing, I focus on the end result – energy savings that helps the environment, our bottom line and investors. Because incentives alone aren’t enough to justify the installation, we don’t install solar panels at facilities located in all states that offer incentives.
Financial incentives from the government include tax deductions and grant programs, but loan programs and other forms of support are also available. New Jersey has been a pioneer state for offering incentives for solar installations, and the state has the second highest rate of solar installations and capacity in the country after California.
Find out more at DSIRE, the best reference for locating information on the solar incentives available on a state level. A small electric company with an aggressive solar program, Glendale Water and Power funds a generous amount of the cost of solar installation for businesses.
It’s becoming more common for utility companies to provide incentives for energy efficiency upgrades to both homeowners and businesses, so if you’re considering solar for your business or home, make sure to check locally for incentives that may help you offset the installation cost. At Extra Space Storage, we were able to use a lot of existing resources to make solar power a reality. Even with a great team of people working together, adding solar power to multiple properties is a large undertaking, the biggest in my 11-year history with Extra Space Storage. This is really a situation where everyone wins, a goal we’re always striving for at Extra Space Storage. What objections will you need to overcome to build cleaner energy into your organization?  Does solar make financial sense for your business?


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We offer extras including the free use of our moving van with a rental of units 5'x10' or greater. GoodFriend Self-Storage provides climate controlled solutions to all your storage needs with convenient locations, modern facilities and exceptional customer service. When I reflect on my job before we started adding solar power to facilities at Extra Space Storage, it was good. It lowers our funds from operations (FFO) by helping us greatly reduce utility costs, and also lowers our carbon footprint. After selecting a company to complete the installation, there’s still a lot of work to be done, including agreements to be signed, and a governmental reviews process. We install solar on properties where there’s a strong environmental benefit paired with a financial benefit for our investors.
For encumbered properties, we also have to make sure we have lender consent for solar installation. With solar power, excess electricity is pushed back onto the grid, and that lowers our utility costs. I’ll discuss the importance of net metering in just a bit, but let’s get to the installation already. Once the system is running, we obtain a commissioning date for the utility company to inspect installation to approve the system for adding surplus solar power to the grid. The systems that we’ve installed will benefit the environment and Extra Space Storage for the next 25 to 30 years. When the installed solar panels generate more power than we’re using, the needle on the meter moves backwards instead of forward. And, for Extra Space Storage, PV cells translate into savings after a carefully planned implementation. In 2010, we had five test installations, but for 2011, that number rose to 51 solar installations initiated! By the end of the year, we expect to have installed solar on over 100 properties since we started in 2010. Plus, we’ve lowered our carbon footprint, even reaching net zero consumption at some locations. With high energy costs and great incentives, it really wouldn’t make sense to not install solar.
By comparison, the rate in New Jersey is about 17 cents per kWh, and in Utah, it’s only about 10 cents per kWh.
I’d deserve quite a few nasty comments for implying that it’s a snap to get things moving, but the important thing is that with time and patience, it can be done!
Without proper financial incentives to help offset the expense of installation, the ROI for adding solar power doesn’t always make good financial sense. However, if there’s a state that offers a more robust incentive, we’re more likely to pursue solar in that state instead of another state where the incentive or rebate isn’t as aggressive.
There’s a tremendous amount of information available about these federal incentives online at websites like DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency). Yet, it pretty much all boils down to this: Incentives in the form of a federal grant or tax reduction can help offset around 30 percent of solar installation costs. Thanks to the state’s Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs), participants may earn a credit (SREC) each time their solar installation generates 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity. For example, last year we completed a project in Glendale, Calif., and received funding through Glendale Water and Power.


On a corporate level we’ve minimized the need to add additional staff to implement our solar program since we already had a great deal of talent in place.
When we started looking at the solar program four years ago, there were plenty of open questions, but we’ve been able to bring it all together to strengthen our commitment to corporate responsibility, while also having a positive impact on the bottom line of the company. Now that I’m part of a nationwide solar power initiative, I feel that the sustainability work by Extra Space Storage is more than good. We completed lighting upgrades and other energy-efficiency projects, but I knew that we could do more. That makes the decision to add solar power to our facilities a good choice not only for the environment, but also for the bottom line and our investors. Completing an ROI evaluation is the easiest way to determine if it makes sense to install solar from a financial prospective. 1st Light Energy not only assists us with the permits and agreements, they also install and maintain the installations.
Our installations were completed in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, California and Hawaii. However, sometimes we go the solar route even when state incentives are lackluster or nonexistent. The expensive energy costs in Hawaii make solar a smart business decision for our investors. The exception, as we discussed earlier, is solar installation in areas with high energy costs.
In deciding where it makes the most sense to install solar, Extra Space Storage uses a mathematical matrix to determine ROI using information for energy consumption, energy rates, cost of solar installation, and benefits from incentives.
While DSIRE focuses closely on state incentives, the “View Federal Incentives” option offers detailed summaries and overviews on several federal incentives, complete with links to IRS forms. The SRECs may be sold as a way to provide revenue during the first 15 years of a solar project.
In the last year, Ohio has joined ranks with the states that offer the most attractive incentives. Making solar power a reality at an increasing number of facilities is an ongoing collaborative effort between our field operations team, accounting and procurement.
I look forward to sharing more updates on our solar installations, and their impact as we continue to make progress in this area. As I started to do analysis, I saw solar installations as the best opportunity to really benefit the environment and Extra Space Storage. Consulting with our solar partner, 1st Light Energy, can also help us determine the best sites for solar power generation. We submit design calculations and plans to local building departments to make sure we comply with their building standards. Plus, they understand our long-term strategy: to benefit the environment as well as our investors.
Net metering reveals the amount of electricity we consumed, and how much we gave back to the grid. If we give back enough electricity, we’ll reach net zero consumption, and pay nothing for energy at that location!
The incentives offered by these states directly impact the ROI for a solar installation, and in turn, help us reduce our energy consumption.
Even at solar-powered locations where we don’t reach net zero, we’re still offloading up to 70 percent of our utility costs.




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