Powering Music by the Sun

Tuesday, 3rd December 2019

Piuma Music are working towards becoming as eco-friendly as possible. The next step of their journey brings them to powering their studio with solar.

After 'Making an Environmentally Friendly Vinyl Record' and 'Building and Eco-Friendly Recording Studio', I wanted to take the sustainability behind my music to the next level, by generating power from the sun.

This article is for musicians and recording studio owners. It is also for anyone who wants to stop powering their art, creative work, home, and business with polluting fossil fuels. In this article, I go into the hidden benefits of solar, highlighting the best panels, installers, and practices for generating your own clean energy — to power your music. If you have a studio in an apartment or condo, you might jump to the section on utilizing shared solar, other green power options, and offsetting with trees.

Combatting Climate Change

The EPA reports that the two biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions are from fossil fuel based electricity production (28%), e.g. coal and transportation (29%). The average home in the USA uses about 10,000kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity a year.1 That also equates to around 10,000lbs of carbon emitted throughout the year, if you are using fossil fuel (coal) based power, such as in Los Angeles through the LADWP.2 Interestingly, the average car emits about the same amount.3 Getting a 50MPG hybrid can help cut your transportation emissions down in half, but getting solar can cut down your household power emissions to zero. If you have an electric vehicle, that is great, but if you are charging it with dirty energy, it is still a source of pollution.4 But if you have solar and charge your electric vehicle, you are at zero, being truly carbon neutral.

The Benefits of Purchasing Solar

At this point in time, purchasing solar can actually make you money in the long run.

30% Federal Tax Credit
Currently, you are able to get a 30% credit on the total cost of your solar panel system, on your next federal tax return.5 That is dollar for dollar, 30% of what you pay. This credit percentage is being reduced in future years and might not be around at all in the future. If you lease a system, the company you work with takes this tax benefit, but if you purchase your solar panels, you receive the 30% credit directly. I personally think buying is the better option.

Solar Replaces Your Electricity Costs
Once you have solar installed, almost all of your electricity costs can be eliminated, over the course of a year. As your system produces more energy than you are using, in winter and spring, credits are given by the utility company e.g. LADWP. These credits offset summer and fall months, when power usage is typically higher than solar production. If you finance your system, the monthly payments are not an additional expense, but can rather replace your normal electricity costs. Also, over time, the costs for fossil fuel generated electricity go up, whereas your payments remain the same until the loan is paid off. The payments are also stable, whereas in summer, electric payments can be really high without solar.

Homes with Solar Panels Sell for 4.1% More
Zillow recently published an article showing that properties with solar typically sell for around 4% more than comparable properties without solar. Even if the real estate market declines, your property would still have a higher value comparatively. Clearly, having solar already installed is a huge selling point, since the buyer will not have to pay for power. Buying solar vs. leasing is more appealing to me, since the buyer of your home does not have to assume your lease, but rather just inherits the fully paid for system. Related, the costs of solar could be deducted as a cost basis tax deduction when you sell, providing an additional tax break.

Fans and Artists Support Eco-Friendly Music
Many fans want to support artists that are making efforts to protect the environment. And many artists want to use recording studios that do the same. You can authentically say that your records are powered by the sun, being recorded with true clean energy.

Common Solar Misconceptions
In talking with people about solar, I found a few common misconceptions. Installing solar will not cause power outages. Also, you don't need to get a battery. If you live in an area where you already have power outages, then getting a battery will prevent these outages, since you are storing your own energy — as opposed to getting credits for putting the power into your utility's grid. It is possible to power your business with the sun; just take a tip from Apple and Microsoft, which are both carbon neutral. Apple went as far as building their own solar fields to power their data centers — so that they are in control of their own power.

Solar Purchase Hypothetical
Sometimes it is easier to see the benefits hypothetically. Let's say you purchase a system that costs $20K, finance with a 4% APR loan, and then in five years sell your home/studio for (what would have normally been) $350K (before the 4.1% home price increase). You can make potentially a 72% ROI of over $11K:


I was surprised to find out that purchasing solar can not only benefit the planet, but also payout as a financial investment. Even if you are not planning on selling anytime soon, your solar panels will still provide a strong ROI in the long run. On my system, it is estimated that it will save around $38K of electrical costs over the next 25 years.

Solar Keeps Your Home Modern
Starting in 2020 in California, all new homes will have solar already installed; so old homes without solar will get outdated.

Recording Studio Energy Efficiency

Studio Lighting
One factor that can't be left out is energy efficiency; solar power is great, but it can't be wasted due to inefficient power usage. Check out a few tips in my Building an Eco-Friendly Recording Studio article's Energy Efficient Lighting section, such as utilizing smart LED lights, like ilumi.

Solar Attic Fans
If you have a peak roof with an attic space, Immaculate Roofing & Solar recommends installing solar-powered attic fans. They are a great way to pull heat out of the attic space, keep the inside of the building cool, and save electricity.

What if I rent an apartment or have a condo? How do I power my recording studio with clean energy?
If you live in an apartment or condo, you could still power your recording studio using special programs that (hopefully) your city's utility company offers.

LADWP - Green Energy Program
Before I had solar, I utilized LADWP's Green Power program. You can select a percentage of your energy consumption to come from green power, being charged at a slightly higher kWh charge e.g. 3 cents. I choose 100% and the differences in the bill were nominal. After some research, I found that LADWP purchases their green power from a biomass facility in Canada.

LADWP - Shared Solar Program
Recently, LADWP started offering the Shared Solar Program, which allows a portion of your monthly kWh to be sourced from new solar power plants in the LA basin.

If you don't live in Los Angeles
Check your local utility provider and see what programs are available. If there aren't, you could send an email or make a call and ask for it. Or even better yet, talk with your landlord or HOA and get a solar proposal to see the benefits of adding solar to the building. If they go for it, that could make a big difference for everyone!

Power Offset Your Music with the Trees
In the meantime, you can carbon offset over a year's worth of your power usage by purchasing our eco-friendly vinyl record, Piuma (py-ooma)—since $5 from each album sale is donated to The Arbor Day Foundation. The Arbor Day Foundation will then plant enough trees to take roughly 6 tons (+13,000 lbs) of your carbon production out of the atmosphere. Support a fellow musician, get a rad vinyl record, and power offset your music by planting trees!

Many of us write music about our love of the earth and its diverse peoples. Taking action to protect the planet is an integral part of that expression. When we do what is in our control, like powering our music with the sun, through installing solar, we are each doing our part. And that step can inspire others to do the same, as we share our experience. And as that impact grows, through our collective efforts, a difference is truly made—like Ripples on the Water.

Questions or want to connect with Keith, the solar expert/consultant I worked with, to get a free proposal? Just send me an email at [email protected].

1. EIA FAQ - How much electricity does an American home use?
2. EIA FAQ - How much carbon dioxide is produced per kilowatt-hour of U.S. electricity generation?
3. EPA Green Vehicle Guide - Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle
4. US Department of Energy - Emissions from Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles
5. Check out the DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency. Just plug in your zip code and check out your benefits. Specifically, here is info on the 30% federal solar tax credit. And you can take the credit over multiple years (if needed).

This article originally appeared at: http://www.piumamusic.com/articles/2019-12-04_Powering-music-with-the-sun.html
The full article includes an overview of the best solar panels and instalation tips.

Useful links

Building an eco-friendly recording studio

Setting up solar panels in a woodland

Making DIY solar panels for your off grid home