Guest Blog: One of SolarTown’s customers recently purchased a solar refrigerator and we invited her to share her thoughts on creating a green home far away from the grid. So you’ve decided that you want a beachfront or close to it but can’t quite come up with the hefty prices in town. Consider the option of affordable beachfront “off the grid.” What does this mean? Well for one, you will be using solar energy (the most efficient) with a possible back-up generator. This means solar panels, batteries and an inverter to convert the solar energy to power your appliances. How large of a system is up to your needs? Myself, I use very little energy so have a small system. However, if you want the electric coffee maker, electric refrigerator, then a much larger system will be needed.
Archive for the ‘Solar Home Panels’ Category
Are you digging out today on the East Coast or are you basking in the sun in Arizona? If you are getting a sun tan on the West Coast, then this blog post is not for you. If you are looking at a roof and your home solar panels under a foot of snow, then you may want to read further. Let’s get to the basics. If your home solar panels are under snow, they are not producing electricity. You have some choices to get those modules back up and generating solar power. The best choice is simply wait, but if you are in a hurry, then some homeowners may use a broom to gently take the snow off of their panels. But don’t risk life and limb on a slippery roof just to get an extra kilowatt hour of electricity.
The news around Washington D.C. has not been altogether bright. The Nationals didn’t make the playoffs this year. The federal government is closed. The museums are closed. Imposing concrete barriers block you from parking in any lots managed by the National Park Service. A woman suffering from postpartum depression leads the police on a chase from the White House to the Capitol Building, where she is killed in her car. Despite all of the bad news and gridlock elsewhere in the city, the solar home tour celebrated its 23rd year in the metropolitan Washington DC area this past weekend. And if you missed it, you missed one of the bright spots in Washington, D.C. Homeowners with solar panels and solar water heating systems graciously opened their homes to visitors just to show off their solar prowess. Some of the homeowners even fed us (and our kids, thank you very much!). Human psychology plays a role in the financing of these systems. When there were more incentives, there was more of a frenzy to buy solar panels. Now that many of the incentives are no longer around, the frenzy has quieted down, but the cost of the solar systems without the incentives is now much less than it was before because of the falling cost of the modules. As one homeowner told us, he originally bought his panels ten years ago at $7.00/watt. Now a better module can cost around a dollar a watt. But what is missing is that hook that you better get on the bandwagon today. There is one major incentive that will almost certainly disappear, and that is the federal income tax credit, which ends in 2016, but you still should have time to put in your solar water heater or solar energy system before the credit expires. With the craziness in Washington, D.C., you probably should think about getting your system up and running before the solar tour next year.
The solar industry is booming throughout the U.S., but still solar has yet to achieve wide acceptance that would make it more than an asterisk in the nation’s energy portfolio. Achieving even 1% of the nation’s energy is still an elusive goal. The largest part of the market is on commercial buildings. You are more likely to find solar panelson the roof of a Costco’s than on your neighbor’s home. There have been lots of challenges, but the two that loom more than the others are financing and aesthetics. That is what is now intriguing about Dow Chemical’s gambit on solar shingles. Dow Solar Dow Solar, a business unit of The Dow Chemical Company, has been quietly rolling out the solar shingles throughout the United Staes, and they have recently become available in SolarTown’s neighborhood, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The shingles do double duty; they are both roofing material to provide a weather tight roof for shelter and they are a source of your family’s electricity needs. But you can’t beat the aesthetics and that is where the rubber meets the road. If Dow can overcome the objections of builders then they may have created a new industry for meeting the needs of homeowners’ electricity needs. The big black boxes may be a quaint reminder of the early days of this fledging industry like the brick cell phones that weighed in at almost two pounds.
If someone would have told me a few years ago that the price for solar panels would drop to 36 cents by 2017, I might have had some question about the mental health of the one making the assertion. But now, look at what Green Tech Media is reporting. The price per watt of solar PV will keep falling. All of this is well and good for the emerging solar industry, but there is a hitch: the sun doesn’t shine at night. price The price per watt to produce solar panels will fall to 36 cents by the end of 2017. With this cost reduction comes a price – disappearing subsidies for solar PV. The subsidies, which cost billions in taxpayer dollars, are believed to be less and less necessary as the price of solar energy reaches grid parity. Solar PV systems require panels, yes, but also a considerable number of other parts. Inverters, wiring, solar batteries for off grid or backup systems, and a good deal of cash for professional installation account for a large percentage of the startup cost that is so daunting to prospective investors, residential and utility alike. The most prohibitive drawback that has solar producing just .195% of the nation’s energy is easy to overlook, but oh so obvious once considered: when the sun goes down over the horizon, the panels are not producing energy.In order to make solar a real answer to our energy needs, it needs to be able to produce energy around the clock, and specifically when it’s needed during peak hours. Price per watt can drop all it wants for panels. To stay competitive, solar energy will need help, and subsidies won’t be coming back to the rescue. The answer is in energy storage.
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.
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.