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Solar Battery Showdown: Tesla Powerwall vs Blue Ion
Nov01

Solar Battery Showdown: Tesla Powerwall vs Blue Ion

If you’ve been looking to buy a battery to store renewable energy you might have noticed something strange — the shelves are nearly empty. The energy storage market, which up until recently had more than a half-dozen varieties to choose from, has gone through a bottleneck and drastically reduced in size, leaving only two competitors with any product left to sell. The reasons for the shortage are no mystery. With the portent of next year’s tariffs looming on the horizon and a narrowing window on government incentives, 2018 saw a rush to purchase energy storage units, such as the sonnenBatterie eco and LG Chem RESU, which were selling at record low prices. Now that the dust has begun to settle, the only two companies left standing are the Tesla Powerwall and the Blue Ion 2.0. The first might not come as a shock. The Tesla Powerwall is one product in a suite of Elon Musk’s renewable innovations, which enjoyed the advantage of first mover in the marketplace back in 2015. Tesla is also a larger company, and has the industrial infrastructure to create enough supply to satisfy market demand. The Blue Ion 2.0 was a bit later to the energy storage game. Reasons for its available stock most likely have to do with the fact that its founder, Henk Rogers, also happens to be the innovator of the pop-video game franchise Tetris, affording the company with enough startup capital to create more products than its competitors. Another possible reason for its availability is its price-point. Costing nearly twice the amount of a Powerwall, the Blue Ion 2.0 might seem more pricey at first glance. However, a side by side comparison of the two products reveals some noteworthy differences that might help justify the higher price tag for consumers shopping for the best deal.   BATTERY COMPOUNDS POWERWALL Powerwall runs on lithium manganese cobalt batteries, the same sort of stuff that’s used for power tools and powertrains on vehicles. Because the battery is made partially of manganese, the raw material cost is lower than other options as cobalt can be expensive. BLUE ION 2.0 Sony’s lithium ferrous phosphate batteries, which power the Blue Ion 2.0, are a high-end battery compound allowing for more efficient power storage. These batteries aren’t plagued by the same thermal runaway that traditional energy storage units are. The company claims its batteries are safer than Tesla’s, with the difference in material quality affecting all its other performance facets down the line. CHARGE POWERWALL It takes approximately 2 hours to charge a Powerwall using either peak sunlight or grid power. The battery has a leg up on...

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3kW vs 8kW vs 20kW of Solar – What Can It Power?
Oct30

3kW vs 8kW vs 20kW of Solar – What Can It Power?

System sizing is an important part of planning your solar installation. So, how big does the system need to be? It depends on what you want to run. In this article, we will take a look at what a 3kW, 8kW and 20kW system could do for you. A 3kW solar power system will generate about 375 kWh per month or about 12.5kWh per day. So what can you do with 12.5 kWh? The simplest example is that you could run five 100 Watt light bulbs for the whole 24 hours, but, that’s not very practical. You could blow dry your hair for 7 hours but that will give you split ends. Being realistic, a 3kW solar system could run a 55 gallon electric hot water heater for a day (with average household use). If it is not too hot outside, it could keep one room cool all day with a 9,000 BTU window air conditioner. If you have an average electric car, 3kW of solar would generate enough energy for you do drive about 40 miles. But, keep in mind it could only do one of these things, if you want to do all of them, you are going to need more than 3kW. So let’s go bigger and see what an 8kW solar system can do. It would have an average output of 33 kWh per day which would be enough to do three loads of laundry with a standard washing machine and electric clothes dryer, one load of dishes in the dishwasher and keep the hot water heater going through it all. If laundry and dishes doesn’t sound like fun an 8kW solar power system would generate enough to drive your electric car 75 miles then come home and cook a turkey in your electric oven. But, if it’s hot outside and your house is 4,000 square feet, the entire output of that 8kW system would be needed to run your central air conditioning. What about 20 kW of solar? With an average output of 83 kWh per day, it can power quite a lot. More than the average household would need.  You could keep the hot water heater running while you do two loads of laundry and a load of dishes, then drive 40 miles in your electric car, cook the turkey and run the dishwasher again all while your 4,000 square foot house is being air-conditioned and your kids are watching TV with all the lights on. But that might wear you out which is why the average residential solar power system is not quite this big. The purpose of this article is to...

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What Skills Are Needed for DIY Solar?
Oct22

What Skills Are Needed for DIY Solar?

Solar is a great idea. But is it a great idea to install it yourself? That depends on your skills. The first set of skills that should be discussed are safety skills. There is a reason why solar contractors pay some of the highest workers’ compensation insurance rates in the construction industry. You will be working on the roof. Be sure to wear a fall protection safety harness to protect you from slipping off the roof! You will need to transport all your tools and materials to the roof (including the 3.5’ x 5.5’ solar panels that weigh 45 pounds each), which can be tricky if the roof isn’t flat. Plus there is live DC electricity and power tools involved. If you know and understand all the safety requirements of these things, you are past the first hurdle. Next, some roofing skills would come in handy for a do-it-yourself solar installer. In order to install solar panels on a typical residential roof, you will be drilling a lot of holes in it. Knowing the basic construction of your roof and how to seal those holes is a key factor in a successful solar installation. Electrician skills are needed if you want to do the whole job by yourself. EMT conduit is commonly used for solar in most parts of the country so you will need to bend that conduit as it goes over the roof ridge or routes around the eave. For most residential jobs the conduit will only be ¾”, maybe 1” if the system is fairly large or you want the wire pull to be very easy. If conduit bending is not a skill you currently have, the key to learning it is practice. So, buy a few more sticks of conduit than you think you need and learn as you go. Most stores also carry conduit bends ready-made with the perfect radius. You can use pull boxes or LBs to get around the corners without being a master conduit bender. Wiring is other electrician skill you will need. Having experience pulling wires through conduit is very useful. Knowledge of details like marking the wires before you pull them through the conduit, making sure all the strands of the wire are in the terminal and how to properly torque the terminal so those wires stay put would also be essential. The more important part of the electrician skills is understanding basic electrical safety. You can do things to make it safer like turning off your main service breaker when you are installing the PV breaker, but you also need to know that the wires from the meter...

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Gov Jerry Brown Signs SB700, Providing Rebates for Energy Storage
Oct11

Gov Jerry Brown Signs SB700, Providing Rebates for Energy Storage

It’s been less than a month since California ratified its highly anticipated SB 700, and already the solar energy storage market is seeing a lively response. Jerry Brown Signs SB700 – California aims to be entirely green powered by 2045. The bill, proposed by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), extends the state’s Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) by an additional five years to 2025, paying rebates to customers for installing energy storage systems, just as California once did for solar panels. “We are one step closer to meeting our aggressive renewable energy goals,” said Senator Wiener about the bill. “By expanding our use of energy storage we will be able to use solar power every hour of the day, not just when the sun is shining. The California Solar and Storage Associate (CALSSA) estimates the passing of SB 700 will provide up to $800 million in additional incentives for batteries and other forms of energy storage. What that means for customers investing in solar energy storage is that their local energy companies will cut them checks for the energy they manage to store. The program is technology neutral so as to not pick winners and losers, and it is designed to lower over time to help drive down prices to the point where incentives are no longer needed. Renewable energy storage technologies range in price and are able to store more than enough excess power to keep a house functioning and EV charging when the sun isn’t shining. The current rebates offered by California’s largest energy companies are as follows: Small Residential Storage Step 5 Step 4 Step 3 Step 4 Energy Storage** $0.25/Wh $0.30/Wh $0.35/Wh $0.30/Wh Residential Storage Equity Step 3 Step 3 Step 3 Step 3 Energy Storage <= 10kW** $0.40/Wh $0.45/Wh $0.45/Wh $0.35/Wh Energy Storage > 10kW + ITC** $0.30/Wh $0.35/Wh $0.35/Wh $0.25/Wh [source: https://www.selfgenca.com/home/program_metrics/] The new funding for SB 700 will be made effective January 1, 2019. The CPUC is expected to implement the extended program and make changes to the rebate structure by late next year, to keep the market’s running smoothly. To learn which renewable energy solutions would be best for your situation visit gogreensolar.com or call (866) 798-4435 to speak with a solar...

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Does Tilting Solar Panels Make Sense?
Oct08

Does Tilting Solar Panels Make Sense?

A solar power system will generate the most energy if you optimize the orientation of the solar panels. But, does that mean it worth it to tilt the solar panels on the roof? First, let’s talk about the best orientation for solar panels. In the northern hemisphere, you will get the best annual energy output if your solar panels are facing due south at a tilt angle just under your latitude. This means if you are in the southern part of the US at a latitude of 35, your system will give you the most kilowatt hours (kwh) if you face the panels south and tilt them at about 33 or 34 degrees from horizontal. Most roofs do not provide this ideal orientation. Your roof might south but the pitch is only 17 degrees. Your roof might not face south at all. It could also just be flat. Should you add hardware to tilt your solar panels to achieve that optimal production? Adding tilt legs to the solar racking will require more racking equipment and more labor to install it. Wind uplift loads are also a factor. When the solar panels are tilted, they are like a sail on your roof and more roof attachments would be required to ensure the solar panels stay put in gusty winds. All of this means higher upfront costs. Another consideration is that if the solar panels are tilted, the rows must be spread apart to avoid the solar panels in the front row shading the solar panels in the row behind it. Last but not least, there is the aesthetic factor. The purpose of solar is to save money not look pretty, but your system still shouldn’t be an eyesore. For the roof that is pitched at 17 degrees to the south, tilting the panels will generally not pay off. It would probably only gain about 5% annual output which will generally not be worth the added cost of the tilt hardware, extra roof attachments and labor. This is especially true if you are on a “time of use” or TOU electric rate pay more per kwh in the summer. If your solar panels are tilted at the lower 17 degree angle, they will actually produce more in the summer when the sun is higher in the sky to hit the lower tilted panels at a better angle. So, while you lose a little kwh over the period of the year, you will be generating more in the summer when kwh are worth more. Also, imagine for a moment how those tilted solar panels would look on your roof. Your neighbors would...

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