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 Energy System’
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.
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.
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.
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.
New Look for SolarTown Learning Center: Learn the Ins and Outs of Solar Policy and Solar Energy ProductsMonday, January 30th, 2012
One of our primary goals at SolarTown is to educate consumers on solar energy in general and solar energy products in particular. We know that you have perused the over thousand solar energy products that we are selling. We hope that you have also spent some time at SolarTown’s Learning Center to learn about solar power products. We know that our customers like our Learning Center, but as the number of articles has ballooned, it has become more unwieldy to navigate. We have put in a new interface to allow you to click on the category that you are looking for.
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.
Washington DC is known for being in the political epicenter of the world, but is not generally known for natural disasters. But with a week of earthquakes shaking our foundation and the impending hurricane that is expected to come ashore just about 150 miles away in Ocean City, Maryland, we are thinking about natural disasters and some solar energy products that may help you weather the storm. Let’s go over just a few of the solar power products that SolarTown offers that will help you in an emergency. But there are a number of other solar energy products that will help you through the storm. You may not have electricity from your power sockets, but you definitely should have a solar flashlight or a solar radio. If all of the gas is shut off, your gas oven is not going to work. You can take out your solar oven and cook up a chicken for your family—so long as there is some sun. Right, if there is a hurricane outside, you are not going to be able to use the solar oven, but after the storm passes, the sun may come out, and then take out your solar oven.
If you have a home with solar panels and next door you have a home without solar panels, you would expect that there should be a premium for the home with solar panels. So you have just sunk $20,000 for your solar panel system—and you will get some of that back from incentives, but will you be able to recoup any of your out of pocket cost if you move in a year. If the useful life of the solar energy on the home is 25 years, and we use a discount rate of 5% per year, then the economic value of the solar panel system you have on your home is $11,000. All things being equal, and assuming that the market is rational, a purchaser of your home should pay an additional $11,000 over what the house next door is selling for without solar panels on the roof. You would expect that you would recoup at least the present value of the energy savings over the next 25 years if you go sell your home. There is scant evidence out there and we at SolarTown wanted to see if this assumption was correct. Accordingly, we are now completing a study to see whether homeowners do indeed receive a premium for the “solar savings” of having a solar energy system on the home. We are about to release the results of a study on this issue. Stay tuned to the SolarTown Learning Center to see the results.
Our solar energy system certified in Pennsylvania and Maryland. We are now already over 8 MWh total generation, so we’re expecting to see 1-2 SRECs for each of the summer months. Through the generation and SREC sales alone, we’ve already generated about $2,700; and factoring in the tax credits for this year, we’ve already paid off over $10,500 for the installed system. At this rate, with our conservation efforts, in the summer months we may get to the point where we’re actually generating a credit.