Solar Batteries Matter

July 30th, 2012

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.

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Solar Panel Warranties from Bankrupt Manufacturers

July 25th, 2012

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.

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When the Grid Goes Down, Go Solar?

July 17th, 2012

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.

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Solar Energy System Installation Despite Fallen Trees in Washington, DC

July 3rd, 2012

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.

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Look up in the Sky, It’s a Solar Panel: Solar Skyscrapers are on the Rise

July 2nd, 2012

Ever since skyscrapers started to capture our imagination, they have been recognized as a city’s symbol of economic power and financial might. They have not, however, ever been accused of being particularly energy efficient. Skyscrapers are notoriously huge energy consumers, which is why we were impressed by some recent efforts for building owners to try to reduce the carbon footprint of their massive buildings. A skyscraper with high-power rooftop solar panels and several floors’ solar glass can run as a vertical solar power station. Imagine, if all skyscrapers and high-rises become solar buildings, what will Manhattan be? At that time, Manhattan will become one of the largest solar power stations in the world, redefining the city’s symbol! Yes, solar skyscrapers are on the rise.

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SolarTown Attends 15th Annual Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Expo + Forum

June 26th, 2012

Last Thursday we woke up early and headed to the Canon House Office buildings to attend the 15th Annual Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Expo + Forum. The exposition brought together various members of the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries to debate US energy policy and present new products. Trade associations, policy analysts, businesses, government agencies and the general public attended the event for a unique networking and learning experience.

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Solar Panels are Great but Not in My Backyard—or on My Neighbor’s Roof

June 15th, 2012

The two major impediments to homeowners installing solar panels on their roofs are financing and aesthetics. We have talked with a lot of homeowners and the discussion always seems to revolve around these two issues. A homeowner has applied to install a system on a sloping roof from which the solar panels would be partially visible from the street. The historic preservation board voted down the plan to install the panels on the 1906 home. Much education has to be done on both sides and with increased understanding, solar designs can blossom in historic districts.

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SolarTown Attends Panel on Climate Change Solutions: The Development World Eagerly Awaits

June 8th, 2012

SolarTown went to a panel discussion at the Aid and International Development Forum held in Washington, DC earlier this week. The panel of policy analysts made a strong case for why we need to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy, including solar energy, into our energy portfolio. Otherwise, by the time that we get around to using solar energy, we may have to rely on a lot more on solar arrays floating on water. While all the panelists agreed that solutions were desperately needed, they differed in their approach to how to address the challenges of global warming. As one panelist said during his presentation, “climate change is the largest scientific experiment in the world.”

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Solar Power for International Development

June 7th, 2012

We changed gears somewhat this week and attended the Sixth Annual Aid and International Development Forum (AIDF) being held here in Washington D.C. Some of the manufacturers whose products we represent at SolarTown such as Voltaic Systems with its solar bags and Sun Danzer with its solar refrigerators were there to show how their products have an important role to play in helping countries develop and saving lives. You don’t believe that solar fridges can keep critical medicines safe. Well, think again, as this solar vaccine refrigerator has been pre-qualified by the World Health Organization and has undergone rigorous testing. There are many other applications of solar energy to the developing world such as solar lights and solar battery chargers, which can provide a lifeline to those living off the grid throughout the world.

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Enphase Innovating into Obsolescence

May 17th, 2012

We like the microinverter for residential solar panel systems and we respect Enphase’s market leadership. Just as the elevator was synonymous with the lift and Xerox was synonymous with photocopiers, Enphase has become synonymous with microinverters. Most of the residential installations of solar panels we see are with microinverters. As Enphase has extended its warranty, the microinverter has become an integral part of home solar panel systems. All of that is well and good, but we are wondering if Enphase is innovating into obsolescence by treating its microinverters as electronics, fundamentally changing its product every few months. We like the Enphase microinverter, but wish that they would spend less time on innovation and more time on improving its current products.

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