Posts Tagged ‘solar modules’

The Japan Experience: The Earthquake that Gave a Jolt to Solar Energy

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

There was very little good that came out of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan. The disaster did, however, cause Japan to rethink its dependency on nuclear power and caused a significant shift in the energy strategy for the country. Japan quickly identified renewable energy as the solution to a sustainable and reliable energy supply. Japan has become a major player in the solar industry with plans this year to install up to 12.7 gigawatts of solar power. Japan is an archipelago, which the National Geographic defines as a “group of islands closely scattered in a body of water”, and is occupied by hundreds of millions of people which does not leave an abundance of space to install solar panels. Recently, however, Japanese electronics manufacturer Kyocera has identified more than one method of efficiently utilizing space in and around the country’s land to install as many solar panels as possible in otherwise dead space. Japan, after being devastated by a natural disaster, is strategically planning its recovery to avoid a repeat of the 2011 Fukushima disaster while also investing in renewable energy that will benefit the environment and produce profits in the foreseeable future. These Kyocera projects demonstrate the potential available to maximize the efficiency of solar energy production with just a little creativity and ingenuity.

Attention Installers: Please Pay Attention to Design!

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

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.

Solar Panels are Definitely Right for You—Maybe

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Home solar panels are becoming increasingly part of the home ownership landscape in many parts of the country. Many of our customers call up and ask whether they should install solar panels on their homes. Since we sell solar panels, we would love to say unequivocally yes, but the answer is more nuanced and our answer usually is, “it depends.” These are some of the considerations we usually give to our customers about whether they should be considering home solar panels. Just because you are intent on going solar doesn’t mean that your home wants to cooperate. Solar can be placed on homes in virtually every state, but not every home is suitable for solar. If you live in a forest, solar panels aren’t going to catch many of the sun’s rays. And if you live in the city and the adjoining building casts a long shadow over your roof for much of the day, then solar panels may not be for your home. I did see at a trade show a couple of years back, a solution to some of these issues by having concentrated solar on a long pole that would peek out over the trees, but I have not seen this application ever used. For today, if you have a huge hickory over your roof or have any other obstructions, then you may want to look into buying green energy or becoming a member of a solar cooperative, where you don’t have to host the panels on your roof.

Winter Weather and Solar Panels

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Are you digging out today on the East Coast or are you basking in the sun in Arizona? If you are getting a sun tan on the West Coast, then this blog post is not for you. If you are looking at a roof and your home solar panels under a foot of snow, then you may want to read further. Let’s get to the basics. If your home solar panels are under snow, they are not producing electricity. You have some choices to get those modules back up and generating solar power. The best choice is simply wait, but if you are in a hurry, then some homeowners may use a broom to gently take the snow off of their panels. But don’t risk life and limb on a slippery roof just to get an extra kilowatt hour of electricity.

Sensational Solar Homes: Solar Homes Roundup in Washington, DC

Monday, October 7th, 2013

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.

Now the World Agrees with Us: There is a Difference between Solar Panels

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

If you have seen one solar module, have you seen them all? Many in the solar industry have long argued that solar panels are a commodity, interchangeable at the whim of the developer. We have strongly disagreed, but we conceded that the market has not agreed with us. All you need to do is ask the many companies who fill the halls of bankruptcy courts around the country and abroad about the market forces that drove them out of business. This argument has been settled—until Tom Woody authored a New York Times article that solar panel quality is a growing concern within the solar industry. Maybe the world is beginning to agree with us, but in any event, you should become an educated consumer as you look at which panels to put on your roof for the next 25 years.

SolarTown Receives Second Award of GSA Contract

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

SolarTown is increasingly tapped to support our governmental agencies, both at the federal and local level. We welcome the opportunity to respond to the needs of government agencies, educational institutions and others as they become increasingly interested in solar energy. Government customers are increasingly looking to SolarTown for their solar energy product needs. SolarTown received its first contract from the General Services Administration (GSA) over a year ago. We are now getting more calls and look forward to serving the government. We are very pleased to report that last month, SolarTown received its second GSA contract, a Federal Supply Contract for building supplies. This new contract will allow us to offer even a larger breadth of solar energy products to the government.

Sandy Won’t Keep Us Down: Solar Products for Natural Disasters and Other Emergencies

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

After every recent emergency or disaster, our customers call and ask us what off grid solutions might help them prepare for the next event, whether it is here in the U.S.or somewhere else. The short answer is that solar energy products can be part of your emergency preparedness plan. Just ask Haitians who were able to cook their food on solar ovens after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Or you might want to talk with relief workers who are able to maintain vaccines in a solar refrigerator in Africa. We are supplying the U.S. armed forces with portable solar modules for power of small equipment in combat zones.

Solar Inverters: Best in Show Awards

Monday, August 27th, 2012

As most loyal SolarTown customers know, we try to get you the best guidance on selecting solar energy products from our selection of home solar panels to solar water pumps and other products. We recently played with the idea of doing the same thing with our selection of solar inverters, but came to the conclusion that the inverter market may not have as many objective standards or features to make that kind of comparison as useful as with solar modules. Some excellent brands, like Outback, don’t stack up in the numbers because they are specialized in other areas like being installable in almost any tropical or harsh environment or switching between on and off grid mode. That said, sometimes the numbers have a point, and we want to share that point with you so at least you have some information on which to base your decision of which solar inverter to choose for certain size solar panel systems. So here is our first rundown of Solar Inverters: Best in Show!

When the Grid Goes Down, Go Solar?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

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.