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.
Posts Tagged ‘solar modules’
Natural gas, Chinese manufacturing and austerity programs were the themes at a solar symposium yesterday in the Nation’s Capital. The GW Solar Institute brought together teachers, students, policymakers and the president of SolarTown to take on the subject: “Solar Energy: A Path to Energy Significance.” No one seemed to suggest that it was going to get any less dull in the solar market in the coming year, but the forecasts were few and far between as the solar market continues with its fits and starts.
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.
The loud sucking noise you hear is the sound of solar manufacturing going overseas. If it were not clear before this month, it is now abundantly evident that manufacturing of solar panels that you may want to put on your home in the United States are not going to come from the US anymore. The trend of manufacturing of solar panels in China is only accelerating as the news in the past few weeks has shown. The evidence is plastered on every news release—we surrender and are leaving town fast. BP Solar hammered shut its operations in Maryland. Evergreen Solar filed for bankruptcy. And now Solon is closing its US plant. Solar panels are not like nails or screws, but more akin to refrigerators or dish washers—consumers pay more for quality and features. We still hold that view and will advise our customers to shop wisely and look at various criteria to rate solar modules, and of course one of those is cost, but that should not be the end all. The market, as shown by the flight of solar manufacturing, is going elsewhere. Thinning margins means a commodity market and the Chinese are willing to tough it out in the long to capture the lion’s share of the business. The future for manufacturing of solar panels in the United States is bleak.
Starting this week, SolarTown will offer a discount solar panel of the week. Every week on Monday, we will post a solar panel that offers great savings. This year, our distributors and vendors have been offering huge savings on solar modules as prices have continued to fall. And they offer to SolarTown discounts, which we are able to pass on to our customers. Some of our customers are most interested in the least expensive solar module that they can purchase. For those installers and contractors who are ready to purchase immediately, the discount solar module of the week will allow them to take advantage of deep discounts that are available while supplies last.
BP Solar is not actually going out of business, but according to BP Solar’s CEO, “BP Solar will shift its strategic direction to focus on large-scale project development activities.” In other words, you won’t be able to buy BP Solar solar modules at SolarTown or anywhere else unless you have a very large project. BP Solar is closing its facility for good, leaving behind unfulfilled promises. BP Solar was a name in U.S. manufacturing. Now its solar headquarters will be relegated to the dustbin of the history of U.S. manufacturing. We are sorry to see you go.
An investment analyst calls SolarTown, inquiring about trends in the solar panel market for 2011, particularly the supply of modules. It reminds me of the study I heard about in business school that if you ask 100 of the leading economists whether interest rates will rise or fall, 42% will get it right. You can pay a lot of money for analyst reports, but with the solar energy market expanding rapidly and incentives seemingly changing day to day, it is hard to predict supplies. That has been a challenge for us, especially last year, but we think that we did well by our customers to secure modules at good prices.
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.