First they were in outer space, then they invaded our homes and businesses, and even our backyards. Now solar panels are getting into our most sacred possessions, right next to our automobiles. Solar panel roofs are providing shade for cars through the U.S. and at the same time these panels are producing a lot of electricity. Solar panels are particularly well-suited for certain applications, and solar carports should be right on top of the list. We could be talking about the Mars Rover, where the next Shell gas station is no closer than 30 million miles away. But here we are talking about solar carports, which are relatively new areas of huge potential for the solar industry.
Posts Tagged ‘Solar Energy Systems’
Are you looking for green or eco friendly gifts to give for the holidays? Every year, we at SolarTown are compiling a list of some gifts that you may want to consider. Take a look at our solar gifts that we are recommending this year in our learning section.The first gift you can give is to educate yourself and your friends about the power of solar energy. My family and I went to the Science Museum in Baltimore over the Thanksgiving weekend. It is easy to forget that the sun is 1.3 million (yes, million) times as large as the Earth. If you open up the sun and dump over a million earths in it, you can begin to imagine that the sun carries a pretty large punch. The challenge is of course how to garner all of that energy. The answer is that we don’t need to garner very much of that energy to meet our energy needs; we just have to do it efficiently.
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.
Innovation is often seen as the way to the future for solar energy. Everybody sees the value of solar panels on rooftops or in fields, but they also see the huge price tag attached to solar energy. Prices have dropped substantially in the past couple of years, mainly because of the Chinese entry and domination of the solar panel industry (and some will say unfair dumping of cheap modules onto the U.S. market). But that still leaves the question of the extent to which innovation plays a role in the developing solar industry. The Wide Lens, a recent book by Dartmouth professor Ron Adner, should be required reading for the up and coming solar equipment manufacturers.
We should say right up front that we generally have a bias in favor of microinverters. Most of the solar energy systems that we sell at SolarTown are sold with microinverters rather than central inverters. We have explained in our learning article explaining inverters and micro inverters why generally we favor microinverters in the residential solar market. Our recommendation, however, may be tempered by our recent experience dealing with customer care of the leading microinverter manufacturer, Enphase. Microinverters have quickly garnered acceptance especially for solar installations on homes. Although we expect some major competition starting this year, Enphase is undoubtedly the leader of this fast expanding market, and as of this writing, is the only microinverter we carry at SolarTown. We may have not been as sensitive to the reliability issue of microinverters, or particularly the Enphase microinverter, until one of the Enphase parts failed on one of our customer’s installations. The part that failed was the Enphase Envoy, which is, according to Enphase, the “communications gateway” for the solar energy system. It basically monitors the performance of the system.
The warming weather will make for an excellent time to take advantage of the additional solar projects coming live in 2011. In addition to your standard solar energy systems, we now see solar installed in different devices and hardware bringing the technology to a wider audience. You ask, “What other devices?” Well we can begin with the Toyota Prius’ solar powered ventilation system, which is the most widely accepted motor vehicle incorporating solar on the roof (silicon cells), helps cool and maintain the car and look but more importantly maximizing energy efficiency.
I was glad to hear that solar made it into Obama’s speech earlier this week, but solar is finding itself lumped in with some strange bedfellows, nuclear and now even natural gas. How did that happen? Sometimes the story of a product or technology is all in the marketing. The success or failure of a product may depend less on the ultimate merits or utility of a product but more on the consumer’s perceptions of that product. In other words, it depends on what consumers think they see, not what they actually see. To get solar into the mainstream, then, we need to come up with a new branding effort. “New and improved solar” is not going to get us very far, but we need you to weigh in helping the solar industry to adopt a new nomenclature that will attract the masses. Think cheap solar, or eco-solar, or simply superb solar. The one that I like the best is sexy solar as in I just put some sexy solar panels on my roof this week.
These are some of the highlights of the year gone by and an outlook of things to come for 2011. The solar industry has waited to find out what would be the fate of the Treasury Grant program. If you haven’t tuned in for this debate, this development is very good news for the renewable energy industry. The solar industry had another stellar growth year. A recent report predicted that the industry will grow as much as 22% in 2010, when all of the numbers (modules) have been counted. The one gnawing issue is that the solar industry is quickly becoming a Chinese industry, as even today the Chinese own 66% of world production. It was a better year to put home solar panels on your roof than investing in solar stocks. Morningstar says that solar investors “could be in for a rude awakening come 2011.” The biggest change in the industry came with the micro-inverter. Sure, solar panel efficiencies improved, which means more output for the buck, and the price of PV came down, but the biggest change in the industry came with the industry acceptance for residential PV installation of the micro-inverter. Enphase is no doubt the market leader, but there are many, many wanabees and the competition for micro-inverters will heat up in 2011. The other major shift we saw in the industry is that regardless of whether the homeowner gets a micro-inverter, the homeowner almost invariably wants to get monitoring of the solar energy system.
You are a plumber, an electrician or possibly a roofer and you increasingly hear from your customers that they are in the market to install a solar energy system to reduce their energy costs. We understand that you want to serve this rapidly expanding solar market, and there is no reason that you shouldn’t. Some of our most loyal customers are contractors who are making the transition to solar energy installations. If you are a quality contractor, you already have many of the requisite skills that are easily transferable to installing solar energy systems. We want to be able to continue to reach out to contractors who are just getting into the field. SolarTown has become a featured solar and green energy resource for plumbers, roofers and electrical contractors.
This past weekend, homeowners opened their solar homes to those wanting to catch a glimpse of the future of home energy. We hope that you were able to attend one of the 648 tours throughout the country. I took my kids to visit some of the solar homes in Washington, DC and Virginia and enjoyed the display of solar electric, solar thermal and even passive solar. My kids especially enjoyed the solar cookies from the solar ovens. The solar home tour showed just how far solar applications have come and how new technology is reshaping the world around us. We only hope that next year we will see more innovations and more homes on the solar home tours, and we hope that we’ll get an invite to the White House to see Obama’s new solar energy system.