In what is now an annual ritual, the SolarTown summer interns got the opportunity to lunch yesterday with White House Correspondent Paul Brandus. Brandus, an award winning member of the White House press corps, goes around tweeting to his vast following of over 130,000 followers on Twitter through the West Wing Reports. Now that is what you call influence. You don’t know what is going on at the White House, unless you are catching Brandus’ tweets. We were able to get a little closer to the action at the White House with our memorable Thai lunch with Brandus. Over generous portions of pad thai and drunken noodles, we talked about renewable energy and the presidential election.
Posts Tagged ‘home solar panels’
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.
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.
Natural gas, Chinese manufacturing and austerity programs were the themes at a solar symposium yesterday in the Nation’s Capital. The GW Solar Institute brought together teachers, students, policymakers and the president of SolarTown to take on the subject: “Solar Energy: A Path to Energy Significance.” No one seemed to suggest that it was going to get any less dull in the solar market in the coming year, but the forecasts were few and far between as the solar market continues with its fits and starts.
My family installed a solar energy system in rural Brazil twelve years ago. A little bit of social consciousness and a lot of economic reasons persuaded us that solar energy was the way to go for our home in Minas Gerais in the interior of Brazil. This is our first-hand account of how and why we went solar. Access to the house was and still is restricted to one dirt road. At the time, there was no electricity, since power lines stopped several kilometers away from us. For the first two years, kerosene lamps lit our lives at night. The electricity grid was not and has not been extended, despite our good efforts. In 1999, we decided to buy the property and install home solar panels to replace the kerosene lamps, radically transforming our electricity consumption there. For twelve years, solar energy has provided us with reliable electricity in the temperate rainforest in Brazil. Lack of infrastructure, a need for electricity and a desire to do the right thing toward the community convinced us to install solar energy in this rural and remote place…and the cherry on top is that we have never and will never receive an electricity bill in the mail.
The whirl of events have left even the closest market observers shaking their heads in disbelief at how much has changed in the solar industry over the past several months. The solar industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. Just how much is the solar energy business growing in the US. Well, a lot if you are counting watts. If you take the second quarter of 2010, 186 megawatts was installed; 2011, 314 megawatts, or an increase of 69%. The irony is that despite this explosive growth in the solar industry and a lot more people putting solar panels on their roofs, solar companies are getting hammered. Their margins are being squeezed and they are not making much money. I am not even talking about the woes of Evergreen Solar, which filed for bankruptcy and is down 99% year-to-date. We won’t even talk about the spectacle of Solyndra, the financial problems of which may only be the least of the problems for some of the executives there. (When the FBI comes knocking on your door, they are usually not bringing gifts.) If you are or were an investor in solar energy stocks, don’t even look at your stock holdings unless you want to barf up your breakfast. But if you are a homeowner interested in a home solar panel system, you may still be smiling as prices have come way down.
You think that the solar industry is just emerging. Well, you may be right, but don’t tell that to the people who have been on the solar home tours for the past 21 years. The 21st Annual Metro Washington, D.C. Tour of Slar and Green Homes took place this past weekend, and if you missed this solar home tour or the one in your area, then you missed out on seeing some of the vibrant solar homes that have taken the solar challenge. This year’s solar home tours, like the Solar Decathlon on the National Mall a week before, was not blessed with sunny weather, but that did not deter the spirits of those who wanted to check out the solar home panels, and solar water heater systems throughout the DC metro region. Despite the rain, solar homeowners were eager to show off their energy efficient houses and to show that, even when it is not sunny, their solar arrays help save on energy costs.
The Solar Decathlon is an event sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, in which students from around the world design, build and operate solar-powered and energy-efficient houses. The team with the house that best incorporates elements such as design excellence, affordability, customer appeal and maximum energy efficiency, wins the competition. The event is meant to educate both the public and the students involved in the project of energy and energy efficiency. The first day of the Solar Decathlon was rainy, which did not deter the visitors as they waited in line to visit each house and discover what made it so special. Fortunately, the rain did not dampen the spirits of the crowds and was no deterrent to this solar event.