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.
Posts Tagged ‘solar homes’
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.
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.
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.
Buried on page 20 of our local paper was a news item “Students push solar for NCS.” The National Cathedral School may not qualify as you your average American school. (For those of you not in the know, NCS is a private school home to some of sons and daughters of the elite of the Nation’s Capital.) But what is going on at NCS may be a glimpse of what the future holds. The article in the Northwest Current chronicles how NCS is now planning on installing 32 solar panels on a century old (read historical) building at NCS—due to the insistence and perseverance of two students at NCS, Charlotte Zimmerman and Christina Boulineaux. The two raised $20,000 and even interviewed solar contractors so that they could place these solar panels on NCS.
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.
The day belonged not to Barack Obama, but to the visionary students on the National Mall who came from not only the US, but also from Canada, Germany and Spain to showcase their solar homes in the Solar Decathalon. There were lines at every house and some of the lines were not short—some people waited for as long as 30 minutes to get into some of the houses.