If you have seen one solar module, have you seen them all? Many in the solar industry have long argued that solar panels are a commodity, interchangeable at the whim of the developer. We have strongly disagreed, but we conceded that the market has not agreed with us. All you need to do is ask the many companies who fill the halls of bankruptcy courts around the country and abroad about the market forces that drove them out of business. This argument has been settled—until Tom Woody authored a New York Times article that solar panel quality is a growing concern within the solar industry. Maybe the world is beginning to agree with us, but in any event, you should become an educated consumer as you look at which panels to put on your roof for the next 25 years.
Archive for the ‘Solar Home Panels’ Category
First they were in outer space, then they invaded our homes and businesses, and even our backyards. Now solar panels are getting into our most sacred possessions, right next to our automobiles. Solar panel roofs are providing shade for cars through the U.S. and at the same time these panels are producing a lot of electricity. Solar panels are particularly well-suited for certain applications, and solar carports should be right on top of the list. We could be talking about the Mars Rover, where the next Shell gas station is no closer than 30 million miles away. But here we are talking about solar carports, which are relatively new areas of huge potential for the solar industry.
The solar energy industry experience a lot of highs and lows during 2012. The biggest development has been the continued growth of solar energy in the United States. As recently reported, if you compare the third quarter of 2012 with the third quarter of 2011, you would see that there was a 44% growth in the amount of solar photovoltaics (PV) installed in the United States. By anyone’s measure that is a huge growth rate. In our first blog post on the solar energy year in review, we discussed the huge price reduction in solar panels, dwindling incentives, and the effect of competing energy sources particularly natural gas on the adoption of solar energy in the U.S. In this blog post, we can’t avoid talking about some of the troubling issues facing the solar energy industry. We will discuss the Department of Energy loan program and tariffs.
We know this much about the solar industry as we approach the end of the year. It was another year of fast moving changes in the industry. The good news is that in 2012, there were a whole lot of solar panels going up on homes and businesses in the U.S. And there were some setbacks for the industry. At the beginning of the year, few had even heard of Solyndra—but by the end of the year, Solyndra had become a household name. As the New Year approaches, we want to reflect back on what 2012 meant for the solar industry. In our blog, we will discuss some of the highs and lows for the solar industry this past year. In this first of two blog posts, we will reflect on the decrease in the price of solar panels, on the effect of natural gas and coal on the solar industry, and finally on the dwindling incentives available to support solar energy.
Now even lions are getting into the solar action. San Diego Zoo is installing a large solar panel system for its customers and its residents. While the environmental benefits of the project are evident, it will also have educational benefits. As the zoo hosts millions of people annually, “…the solar canopies and EV chargers will be part of an educational experience about clean energy…” It is imperative to remember that the zoo draws many children to visit, “so they will be able to learn about animals, clean energy, and climate change in one setting.” Connecting the Solar-EV exhibit to the effects of fossil fuels and climate change on animals present at the zoo, such as polar bears, will further emphasize the importance of renewable energy sources to future generations.
As most loyal SolarTown customers know, we try to get you the best guidance on selecting solar energy products from our selection of home solar panels to solar water pumps and other products. We recently played with the idea of doing the same thing with our selection of solar inverters, but came to the conclusion that the inverter market may not have as many objective standards or features to make that kind of comparison as useful as with solar modules. Some excellent brands, like Outback, don’t stack up in the numbers because they are specialized in other areas like being installable in almost any tropical or harsh environment or switching between on and off grid mode. That said, sometimes the numbers have a point, and we want to share that point with you so at least you have some information on which to base your decision of which solar inverter to choose for certain size solar panel systems. So here is our first rundown of Solar Inverters: Best in Show!
If you want to buy solar panels, you most likely want to connect them to the grid. But there are some homeowners and others who want to be or need to be off the grid. There are the folks who have a cabin in the mountains and there is no grid anywhere close by. There are the farmers in Northern California who are growing, well, let’s just say they don’t want anyone to know how much electricity they are using. There may also be some homeowners who are on the grid but want a battery back-up system for emergencies or natural disasters. For these solar energy users, getting the right home solar panels is the easy part. The critical component of their off grid solar energy system is the solar battery. Choosing the correct solar batteries and understanding how to maintain and take care of them can be a challenge. In a recent series of learning articles, we have tried to demystify solar batteries.
Manufacturers of home solar panels have ballyhooed their every increasing warranties. That is great, but what happens when that quarter of a century warranty goes down with the ship when the solar manufacturer goes out of business. I think that is what you call an illusory promise, because when it comes time for the company to honor the warranty, the homeowner who has purchased solar panels is going to call the manufacturer and get a recording: “that number is no longer in service.” We’re going to talk about warranties from solar panel manufacturers in this blog post so that homeowners may be able to take a few precautions when purchasing a solar panel system for their homes.
A couple weeks ago, I spent a lot of time overheating in my dark, humid house with fond memories of air conditioning to to keep me company. Ironically, this year’s Independence Day reminded me of just how dependent I am on grid power. Without it I lost AC, water, and several hours of each day. I know I wasn’t the only one this happened to. This year’s power outages affected hundreds of thousands of people and in Virginia almost one million households lost their power. My home does not have a backup generator and, until recently, was only stocked with just one flashlight. In hindsight this was not a good decision. Since we as a nation probably won’t upgrade our infrastructure, power outages are going to continue to happen. This is especially true considering that some scientists have linked extreme weather last year to climate change. In order to be more prepared for the next outage I’ve decided to get a backup system. I have two main choices: diesel and solar.
Just a few feet from a tree that had fallen in the storm, I saw some other workers who had nothing to do with the clean-up—they were installing a solar panel system. They had somehow managed to maneuver around the fallen trees and the strange traffic patterns as the signal lights all over the city were not working. I am particularly interested in this installation, for if you are an avid reader of this blog, you will know that not far away in the neighborhood of Cleveland Park, the historic preservation committee voted down a solar energy system on a home not far from where I live. Our neighborhood, however, is not part of a historic preservation district so the homeowners have a freer hand in placing a solar panel system on their homes.We also carry at SolarTown other off grid products that will allow you to weather the storm. A solar refrigerator can be used to maintain your food, and one model of a solar fridge allows you to maintain medicines. If you are digging out any everyone on your street doesn’t have power, if you had a solar oven, you could prepare your food so long as the sun is out. And of course, if you can’t live without your computer, we have solar bags or small portable solar backup systems to provide just enough juice for your computers or handheld devices.