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Sunshine on a Cloudy Day – Why Solar Still Works in Clouds, Rain, or Shine
Sep30

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day – Why Solar Still Works in Clouds, Rain, or Shine

When it comes to generating power from the sun, there’s a misconception that home solar systems don’t work in cloudy weather. However, ask anyone who’s ever gotten sunburned when it is cloudy out, and they will tell you a different story. That’s because solar radiation, better known as Ultra Violet rays, can penetrate clouds and produce energy. Depending on the type of cloud cover, solar panels might produce 10-25% of their rated wattage. Thanks to significant increases in panel efficiency over the last decade coupled with their declining prices has allowed homeowners to install more panels for less, reducing the weather’s gross impact in performance. Solar panel efficiency has increased over time Solar panel pricing has decreased over time Famously gray cities such as Seattle and Portland are among the top 20 leaders in America in terms of solar capacity. Washington’s generous payback incentive and net-metering policy have helped encourage the adoption of solar, allowing homeowners to benefit from reduced electric bills and a greater confidence in their self-reliance should a power outage occur.  Similar to cloudy days, solar panels also work in the rain. Counter intuitively, the rain can actually benefit panels, by washing away dust and dirt debris on panels, allowing them to perform better when the sun peaks back through.  Homeowners planning for solar in a cloudy, rainy, or even seasonally snowy environment, should consult with a solar expert to size their system and design a solar array specific for their geographic location. Basic calculations to gauge a system’s size can be made with the following formula: Array Size (kW) = (Annual kWh usage) / (365 days/year) / (Solar Hours – 1.5/day) / (0.82 derate factor)  How Many Sun Hours a Day Do You Get?Zone 1      6 hoursZone 2      5.5 hoursZone 3      5 hoursZone 4      4.5 hoursZone 5      4.2 hoursZone 6      3.5 hours Since systems will usually yield less energy during the winter months, its safe to subtract ~1.5 solar hours to account for decreased sunlight and ensure your system will meet all your power needs. Home solar supplier GoGreenSolar carries panels that are best suited for cloudy, rainy or even snowy conditions —  Hanwha Q Cells, NEO and LG Solar are among the top performers in adverse conditions. To figure out what solar panels and system array is best for your home call for a free consultation:...

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Grounding Overview for Do-It-Yourself Solar
Sep23

Grounding Overview for Do-It-Yourself Solar

The grounding requirements are one of the most confusing aspects of solar installation. Grounding is also what city inspectors tend to scrutinize the most. That is not a good combination unless you really like hanging out with your city inspector and want to fail the first inspection so you can see them a second time. But don’t stress, we’ve got some tips to help you avoid common grounding issues. First, pay attention to what is shown on your permit plans. These plans have been approved by the city or county and if you follow those plans, the inspector should be happy with your work. There will be notes about the grounding that are very important. If you do not understand what those notes mean then you should ask the people who drew those plans for you.  Second, be aware of the grounding requirements for the equipment you are using. The NEC code says that all non-current-carrying metal parts must be grounded. This means any piece of metal that should not have electricity flowing through it has to be connected to the main grounding system at your house. This includes the solar panel metal frames, the racking for the solar panels, the metal conduit and all the metal enclosures of your inverter, AC disconnect and other components.  The majority of racking systems are set up so that you only have to ground one rail in each row. Fortunately, most of the racking companies have your back and designed their systems to do a lot of this work for you. The majority of racking systems are set up so that you only have to ground one rail in each row. From that grounding point, all the solar panel frames and all the rails in that row will be grounded through an integrated system that has been UL listed to provide a proper path to ground. In rail-less systems, you often only have to ground one piece of the racking and use a few jumpers to keep the ground continuous through the whole array. This integrated grounding will usually also include microinverters or DC optimizers if they are installed to the racking correctly. With that said, don’t make any assumptions. Read the installation manual for the racking system and follow the grounding instructions carefully using only parts that are specific to that racking system. Again, if you don’t understand the instructions ask the racking company or your distributor for clarification.  So now you have this grounding conductor (officially referred to as the Equipment Grounding Conductor (EGC) that will be on the roof, attached to the racking. You will run this EGC down...

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Massachusetts follows California, requiring new buildings to have solar
Sep23

Massachusetts follows California, requiring new buildings to have solar

Massachusetts state legislators are hoping to follow in the footsteps of California this month with a bill that would require new commercial and residential buildings to be equipped with solar panels. Democratic Senator James Eldrige, and Democratic representatives Jack Lewis and Michael Connel, jointly filed bill S.1957 entitled “An Act Increasing Solar Rooftop Energy” in both the state Senate and House on Sept 16, 2019.  If approved, the legislation will make changes to Massachusetts building code within a year to require all new buildings to have minimum construction standards for solar panel systems. The energy requirements for solar systems will be dictated by the type of structure each building is classified as, with single-family homes needing a system that would be large enough to meet 100% of its energy needs. In 2018, California approved a similar mandate requiring solar on all new construction, which is scheduled to roll out Jan 1, 2020. The California Energy Commission expects the bill to increase the upfront development costs of new homes by $9,500 while saving homeowners on average $19,500 over the life of the system. California’s mandate is part of an initiative to produce at least 50% of the state’s energy from renewables by 2030.  Likewise, Massachusetts has similar goals with regards to renewable energy production in its crosshairs. The state hopes to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% in 2050, according to the states Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020.   “At just under 3% of the U.S. economy and 1.2% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, Massachusetts could not, on its own, stop global climate change even if it reduced statewide emissions to zero instantly,” the state website reads. “However, Massachusetts is in a position to show the way to a clean energy economy – and reap direct benefits in economic growth – through the development of smart, targeted policies that reduce emissions by promoting greater energy efficiency, developing renewable energy, and encouraging other alternatives to the combustion of fossil fuels.” To help meet these goals the state already has several solar incentive programs in place. The Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target Program, which started in Nov 2018, pays solar energy system owers a fixed block-rate per kilowatt-hour of solar energy produced. Once blocked thresholds are fulfilled, the subsequent tier of kWH rates declines.   Massachusetts’ latest bill is what many environmentalists and solar proponents hope will soon become a trend on the state level to take ownership in the fight against climate change. Together with states such as California that are gearing up for its 2020 Solar Mandate to take place, the future’s looking bright. Installing a new...

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Solar Paperwork – What’s Involved
Sep16

Solar Paperwork – What’s Involved

If you are thinking about installing your own solar, you should know that there is more to getting the job done than sweating it out on the roof and hooking up the wires. There is paperwork to be done before and after the solar panels go on the roof.  First, you have to get a permit from your local building department which will be the city you live in or the county if you are outside city limits. You will need what is typically called a “permit package” that will be several over-sized pages explaining to the building department exactly what you intend to do and proving that the work meets all the building and electrical codes.  This package will include a site plan showing where on your property all the solar equipment will be installed (including inverters and disconnects). There will be specifics on exactly how you plan to attach the system to your roof and details on the roof structure to show that it can handle the weight of all the solar panels and racking. You will need an electrical diagram that shows how all the solar components go together and how you will make the connection to the grid. Along with the diagram, you have to show all the calculations proving the solar components are compatible and that your interconnection to the grid will be code compliant. You will have to include the datasheets on all the equipment and you will probably also have to fill out some generic permit application forms when submitting all this. You will also have to do some paperwork for your local utility company. They will want to know the all details of the solar equipment that you are connecting to their grid. Every utility is different but most of them will want you to complete and sign a “net-metering” agreement. This is basically a contract with the electric company that outlines details of responsibilities of both parties and may also cover things like what your electric rate will be after solar and how you will be compensated for energy fed into the grid at times when your solar is producing more than your home is using at any given time. The utility company may also require justification of your system size, especially if it produces more power than you normally use. If you are lucky, there will be paperwork for a rebate or renewable energy credits (RECs). Rebates are often offered by state or local government. Sometimes they are offered by utility companies. Renewable energy credits are a way to get paid for the solar energy you produce and are...

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Home Solar Keeps Power On During Upcoming PG&E Outages
Sep11

Home Solar Keeps Power On During Upcoming PG&E Outages

Tens of thousands of California residents were affected by power outages this summer, as Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) company shutoff electric lines in order to mitigate fire hazards in high-threat zones.  Only those generating their own power with such systems as home solar were among the few that maintained access to electricity and could continue with life as normal.   PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff map showing potential power outage areas for California residents.  Warnings leading up to the outages were abrupt, as PG&E’s system relies on variable weather conditions such as the wind to determine when and where to turn off the power. Cities in Northern California regions are currently among the areas hit worse, with the utility company alerting 5.4 million customers with texts, robocalls, and emails that power shutoffs might be happening in less than 24 hours.  One such shutoff that took place in August left more than 54,000 people in Santa Cruze, San Jose, and Marine County without power, spoiling food and disrupting businesses and lifestyles. “We ask that all our customers use this event as a reminder to revisit their emergency plans and build or restock their emergency kits to prepare for potential power outages during wildfire season,” said PG&E official Michael Lewis to the Sacramento Bee. PG&E expects this to be the new normal, with the scope of its grid outages and blackouts expanding across California and parts of Nevada in order to preempt wildfire risks, such as the state’s deadliest fires that occurred last summer due to historically hot conditions and downed electrical lines during high winds.  Having a reliable source of power combined with a generous 30% federal tax credit, which is scheduled to significantly decrease at the end of 2019, has spurred many California residents to install home solar.  Home solar companies such as Go Green Solar help provide people with some of the best cost solar install options in the country, offering professional and DIY options. For some in California, the era of reliable electricity in the wildfire-plagued state is coming to an end, while for others that are taking matters into their own hands, the future is looking...

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