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.
Posts Tagged ‘solar array’
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.
I know that I may be a little behind the times, but I just watched James Cameron’s blockbuster smash “Avatar” with my kids on the “small” screen, and was surprised to see just how many “Going Green” messages there were in this futuristic movie. You may remember that the only application for solar energy used to be on the Space Station–or the Mars Rover. The technology hasn’t changed much in 25 years, but what has changed is the cost of photovoltaic, which now allows homeowners and business owners throughout the world to use solar energy on Earth. You don’t have to have a futuristic home to place solar panels on your roof. Any view of the future requires the adoption of solar or other renewable energy.
The blog that we posted on the warranty claim with Enphase received some attention—from Enphase. The director of customer support read the SolarTown blog on the warranty claim on the Enphase Envoy and wrote to us directly: “It sounds like someone may still have an unresolved issue, which I would personally like the opportunity to escalate to resolution… I would be happy to intervene and fix the situation.” And true to his word, Enphase replaced the Envoy that wasn’t working. Issue resolved and our hours on the phone were behind us. Enphase will need to continue to support its customer relations folks if it wants to hold onto its leadership role in the inverter market. Enphase is also reportedly considering offering a longer warranty than the current 15 years that it currently offers. That would assure consumers that the microinverters will work reliably for almost as long as the 20-25 years that the solar modules are expected to generate electricity. The warranty is only as good as the company that is standing behind its products. We hope that the intervention in the warranty claim that we had better represents the company’s customer service approach than what we experienced initially. That could keep Enphase in the leadership position for some time to come.
Congratulations to Team Germany for winning the 2009 Solar Decathlon. With a massive 11.1 kW array, and thin film on the walls, there was no one who could match their net metering prowess. Illinois finished second; California, third, and Ontario fourth. Make no mistake about it. Germany won based on the strength of its PV array. It finished in the top five of the other nine categories, except for communications. On net metering, it received 150—out of a total of 150 points. This is the photo of the winning entry.