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World’s Oldest Solar Power Plant
Jun27

World’s Oldest Solar Power Plant

When it comes to having the “world’s oldest”…well, anything, California doesn’t hold many distinctions.     Somewhere hidden in the state’s White Mountains there’s a 5,068 year old tree that’s the world’s oldest bristlecone pine.   and somewhere in Downey there’s the world’s oldest McDonald’s. But conifers and Big Macs aside, California also has the distinction for housing the world’s first and oldest solar power plant, which was built way back in 1985. Owned and built by NextEra Energy Resources, the 354 MW facility houses nine operational solar plants, with the newest being completed in 1990. It facility covers 1,600 acres and houses nearly a million parabolic mirrors. According to NextEra, it can power over 230,000 homes during peak energy production. The plants, which are referred to as Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS), use panels that are different than the more commonly used photovoltaic ones, which transfer and store energy into batteries. Instead, the SEGS use mirrors that are 94% reflective (compared to typical mirrors with a 70% reflection rate) to direct the sun to heat a synthetic oil called Therminol. The focused light is nearly 80 times more powerful than normal sunlight. The heated oil then super-heats water, producing steam to power a turbine. The plant is estimated to displace about 3,800 tons of pollution per a year, which, when added up over the decades is a savings of about 60,000 tons of waste. So next time you’re driving through the Mojave desert and want to make a historical pit stop, check out the oldest solar fields in the world. And be sure to bring your sunglasses!...

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How to make more than rebate $ off your surplus energy
Jun23

How to make more than rebate $ off your surplus energy

In the old days, the days of the 20th century, we all used to be energy deficient and needed to rely on large companies to generate energy for us, paying them a premium for its use.   But now, at the dawn of the age of renewable energy, we’re beginning to generate our own energy, and during those times when we’re left with a surplus, there’s evolved new ways to use it.   We’re not just talking your standard Net Metering government rebates here. One company, Xcel Energy, has taken the idea of a renewable energy surplus one step further and created a program that, in essence, can be called an energy bank and pays an annual incentive.   If you’re lucky enough to live in the states of Minnesota, Colorado and New Mexico, you might know what we’re talking about.   Currently, these three states are the only ones in the US that Xcel Energy operates or, in the case of New Mexico, has operated in.   The idea is simple, a spokesperson for the company explained:   “When people produce excess electricity it gets put into solar bank. If they produce more every month, their credits will grow, and if they use more, they can draw from it.”   At the end of each year homeowners have the option to roll their saved energy hours over into the next year’s account to draw from, or can choose to get a check back for however much excess energy the have left stored in their account. Such novel performance based incentives are paying homeowners in New Mexico that use solar $0.08 per a KW hour for the next 10 years. And that’s in addition to the normal net metering and solar government rebates being dished out, resulting in some residents producing a positive cash flow for their energy consumption!   In Colorado, Xcel’s Solar Rewards Program, works on independent contracts with homeowners with rates that vary from person to person. And in New Mexico, Excel closed is program to new users in 2014 when the state Public Utilities announced it met its solar capacity.   After reading about how the company operates it appears that its state programs have a cap of solar depositors, which, once certain megawatt capacities are reached, it no longer becomes profitable for the company to store and sell off people’s excess energy.   People who managed to get a foot in before that window of opportunity closes, however, are able to reap the benefits of the annual payments for years until their contract...

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5 Ways To Prepare For Solar
Jun16

5 Ways To Prepare For Solar

In the same way you’d tape off areas before painting a room, or stretch before running a marathon, there’s some steps you can take to prepare your house before switching to solar.     X2 check permitting guidelines   Often times the most difficult part of converting to solar is dealing with local regulations and permitting processes. Most city utility companies require the following documentation before installation can begin: Level 1 interconnection Application and Agreement for inverter-based generating systems Electrical diagram of proposed generating system Specifications of inverter Application for electrical service (if you’re going to use meters) If you’re the do-it-yourself type of person, perhaps the best place to spend money on outside help is on a solar design and permit service. Municipalities are not known for their speed, and a red-flagged permit takes longer to get through the second time than the first. Also, it makes sense that you know the rules before you play the game. In some cases you might even uncover hidden rebates or government incentives.     Make sure your roof can handle the weight   Consult with a building inspector or engineer to determine the maximum load that is safe to put on your roof. Solar arrays can be heavy, and the weight of these plus any racking systems and microinverters can add up. So think of this maximum load number as Gandolf…     …and make sure to tally up the weight of every item you install.   3) Check your roof’s condition Any repairs you’ll need to make to your roof after installation will require the removal of the solar panels. Make roof repairs before adopting solar energy and don’t cut corners on using the best materials. Saving a few dollars in the short run could end up costing you thousands down the road.   4) Plan your angle of attack In the northern hemisphere most panels are mounted on south-facing roofs to capture the maximum amount of sunlight. If you have a roof with an east or west orientation you or an installer will need to position the array at optimal angles. If it’s too flat it will collect water and if it’s too tilted you’ll miss out on precious rays of power. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the United States Department of Energy has helpful guidelines on how to optimally angle your array.   5) Build a Sun Cabinet Call it a utility storage nook or sun cabinet–we just like the fancy name–but build or designate a closed space to house all your solar equipment. Batteries, inverters, Balance of System (BOS) modules all help enhance a home’s...

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4 things you might not know about solar
Jun12

4 things you might not know about solar

1) Solar Panels Work in Cloudy Weather Don’t believe us, just ask someone from Germany, which is one of the world’s leading markets for solar. This cold climate country, along with some of its scandinavian neighbors has shown that solar can thrive even in cold climates. But of course, if you’ve ever gotten burnt on a grey day, you’d already know the sun doesn’t stop working just because of some clouds.   2) Solar panels don’t require much maintenance Yup, with no moving parts, and robust hardware, it’s rare that a PV system will fail within the lifecycle of its 25 year warranty. Some homeowners care for their panels by giving them an annual cleaning, but some don’t even do this. Why lift a finger when the rain or snow can do the job for you? Solar monitoring software allows users to spot drops in power generation immediately, so if a large piece of debris falls on one of the panels, it’s easy to locate. In some cases the panels have even been known to improve the strength of the roof:   3) These surprising statistics More than half the united states solar panels have been installed within the last three years The amount of solar energy that hits Texas each month is equal to the entire amount of energy ever produced by oil and gas, according to CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Rhone Resch. The amount of solar energy that hits the world every minute is enough to meet its power needs for a year.   4) Solar is more cost effective than fossil fuels At first look it might appear that the fossil fuel per a KW hour cost is cheaper than solar, but in some areas, a combination of federal, state and local incentives can slash up to 60% off the cost of a home PV installation. Additionally since conventional energy is a limited resource and the cost is guaranteed to rise, locking in a net-metering rate now is an easy way to stabilize future finances. Unlike fossil fuels, solar pays for itself within 7-15 years once it is installed, usually bringing in two to four times their worth in savings on electricity bills. Indeed The Wall Street Journal has shown that to install a new coal or nuclear plant today, would be less cost effective than encouraging homeowners to switch to solar, since the plants are so expensive to fund:     And then there’s all the nasty health and environmental side effects of fossil fuels, which, when considered in calculating its per KW hour cost make its price-tags more than double....

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What happens when renewables are overproduced?
Jun06

What happens when renewables are overproduced?

The writing is on the walls, or in this case, the roofs. We all knew the time would come sooner or later, the day government solar incentives began to decline. While America has yet to see such a trend, some countries around the world have begun to produce more renewable energy then they are capable of consuming.   Most recently there was Chile, which produced so much solar that it was giving it away for free. A Bloomberg chart shows how spot prices reached zero for 113 days through April since the beginning of 2016 And then there was Germany, which generated so much renewable energy in May that it saw power prices go negative for several hours–meaning that power companies were actually paying customers to consumer energy!   The list goes on: last year in 2015 Denmark produced 140% of its energy needs through renewable energy and began exporting its excess to neighboring countries; Costa Rica ran its entire country on renewable energy for 75 days; and then there’s Austria, Norway and Iceland–all of which achieved close to 100% renewable power years ago and, well, see the writing on the roofs now?   Incase it’s still difficult to read, perhaps Ray Kurzweil’s accurate predictions about the exponential growth of installed PV panels along with this neat graph might get the point across:   The world is shifting to solar fast, and that means the government incentives to do so are quickly disappearing.   It’s not unimaginable that in the near future, homeowners will be faced with the choice of either continuing to purchase power off the electrical companies or become independent suppliers of power to the electrical companies. While the latter will provide freedom from big corporations it will also have the drawback of no longer being subsidized–making it much more of an upfront financial burden to bare.   No doubt the energy companies have read what the solar trend spells for their future–it’s been a message we’ve known for a long...

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