Posts Tagged ‘home solar panels’

A Green Conversation with White House Correspondent Paul Brandus

Friday, July 24th, 2015

The SolarTown interns discussed the direction of renewable energy in the existing political climate with award-winning White House Correspondent Paul Brandus. Brandus, the founder of @WestWingReports, has over 200,000 followers on Twitter and is scheduled to release a new book in September entitled Under This Roof: The White House and the Presidency. Once we made our way to Chop’t, ordered our food, and sat down, we had the opportunity to explain each of our summer projects to Brandus and get his input on where renewable energy fits into politics at the White House.

Brandus with SolarTown interns Max Venezia, Naomi Rogoff and David Edelman (not pictured: Madeline Koelbl)First, Brandus reminisced on one conversation he had with a young Senator Barack Obama about his plans to put solar panels on the White House, if elected president. Once that Senator was elected, however, Brandus would ask the president for updates on the White House solar panels and the President would report back: “We’re working on it”. Five years later, the solar panels were finally installed on roof of the president’s residence. “Everything moves slowly here,” said Brandus.

The Japan Experience: The Earthquake that Gave a Jolt to Solar Energy

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

There was very little good that came out of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan. The disaster did, however, cause Japan to rethink its dependency on nuclear power and caused a significant shift in the energy strategy for the country. Japan quickly identified renewable energy as the solution to a sustainable and reliable energy supply. Japan has become a major player in the solar industry with plans this year to install up to 12.7 gigawatts of solar power. Japan is an archipelago, which the National Geographic defines as a “group of islands closely scattered in a body of water”, and is occupied by hundreds of millions of people which does not leave an abundance of space to install solar panels. Recently, however, Japanese electronics manufacturer Kyocera has identified more than one method of efficiently utilizing space in and around the country’s land to install as many solar panels as possible in otherwise dead space. Japan, after being devastated by a natural disaster, is strategically planning its recovery to avoid a repeat of the 2011 Fukushima disaster while also investing in renewable energy that will benefit the environment and produce profits in the foreseeable future. These Kyocera projects demonstrate the potential available to maximize the efficiency of solar energy production with just a little creativity and ingenuity.

Solar Forward!

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Solar has arrived—on Earth! Just a few short years ago, most people associated solar with exotic uses like the wing arrays on the International Space Station or the small solar modules powering the Mars Rover. That now seems like ancient history as you will now find solar panels on your neighbor’s roof, your partner’s backpack (got to have that power for your cell phone), and on those solar lights in your garden (won’t exactly reduce your carbon footprint, but it’s a start). When SolarTown was just starting out six years ago, we were selling some of our home solar panels for $5.00 a watt. Do you know what that is today? On some of our modules, we have seen the cost to our customers go down by a whopping 80% or more. Sure there have been a lot of companies that are out of business, and the ones that survived showed that they could do the same job for a lower cost. The industry is now much more stable and mature. We would like to think that we have played a small role in helping our customers on their path to adopt solar as part of their life style and commitment.

Battery Storage Bonanza: Tesla Rules the World

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Game changer is usually a term that is usually overused by entrepreneurs seeking a lot of your hard-earned money. But the shocking truth is that yes, the new battery announced by Tesla is potentially, in the words of our esteemed vice-president, a big f—king deal. Game changer may indeed be an understatement if the potential of the Powerwall is realized. Elon Musk doesn’t do things small. The Powerwall’s price is about $3,000 for a 7 kilowatt hour model to $3,500 for a 10 killowatt hour model. I have seen some estimates that this may add up to about 30 cents per kwh to get electricity from the Powerwall—compared to what you might pay about 12 -15 cents per kwh around Washington DC (some places like Hawaii is a lot more and would be ideal for the Powerwall). As the cost comes down even further as the technology improves, would you consider ditching your utility completely? Stay tuned for Musk’s next announcement.

Cooling Solar Panels to Increase Efficiency

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Just like you, the solar panels on top of your roof are not as productive at high temperatures! Most people think that with the more direct sunlight the more energy the panels will produce, but then don’t worry about the accompanying high temperature. Cooling solar cells can often be a pretty expensive and time consuming process with previous solutions including the use of chemicals or gallons of water. Solar panels could actually be more efficient if they did not “overheat” as often. The problem is how to do this in a gentle and inexpensive way. Researchers at Stanford University have recently unveiled new coating made out of silica glass that will allow the solar cells to cool themselves, but still receive the same amount of sunlight and produce the same amount of energy. A silica, pyramid patterned coating was seen to work the best by being transparent to visible light and easily able to redirect thermal rays back into the atmosphere.

Women, Grab Your Solar Panels: Gender Diversity in the Growing Solar Industry

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Come on ladies, shatter that glass ceiling! It seems to be that more women are gaining ground in the solar industry with positions not only in engineering and installation, but also in sales and management. Studies have shown that diversity in the workplace results in more revenue and boosts morale. Individual women as well as associations are changing gender diversity in the solar industry. And this is happening in both developed and underdeveloped countries creating better opportunities for women everywhere. Non-profit organizations and women high up in companies are creating projects and methods to further the employment of women in the solar industry.

Attention Installers: Please Pay Attention to Design!

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Solar home panels are increasingly becoming part of the landscape in communities throughout the U.S. They are cropping up in cities and towns, in the burbs and in downtowns. Some of SolarTown’s best customers are farmers and ranchers. But wherever you live, do not forget to assure that your solar installer pays attention to the design of your array. It is going to be on your roof for decades to come and you don’t want something that is going to look lousy. If we are going to overcome objections from some quarters about how solar panels look, solar installers may want to pay more attention to how the arrays on residential roofs look. It would benefit not only the homeowner but the entire industry.

Solar Panels are Definitely Right for You—Maybe

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Home solar panels are becoming increasingly part of the home ownership landscape in many parts of the country. Many of our customers call up and ask whether they should install solar panels on their homes. Since we sell solar panels, we would love to say unequivocally yes, but the answer is more nuanced and our answer usually is, “it depends.” These are some of the considerations we usually give to our customers about whether they should be considering home solar panels. Just because you are intent on going solar doesn’t mean that your home wants to cooperate. Solar can be placed on homes in virtually every state, but not every home is suitable for solar. If you live in a forest, solar panels aren’t going to catch many of the sun’s rays. And if you live in the city and the adjoining building casts a long shadow over your roof for much of the day, then solar panels may not be for your home. I did see at a trade show a couple of years back, a solution to some of these issues by having concentrated solar on a long pole that would peek out over the trees, but I have not seen this application ever used. For today, if you have a huge hickory over your roof or have any other obstructions, then you may want to look into buying green energy or becoming a member of a solar cooperative, where you don’t have to host the panels on your roof.

Penny’s Home Green Home

Friday, February 28th, 2014

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.

Winter Weather and Solar Panels

Friday, February 14th, 2014

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.