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Hurricane Sandy: 6 Million Currently Without Power

You’ve heard about the devastating effects of the hurricane on the northeast of the United States.  Brutal 80-90 mph winds swept across the east coast, hazardous saltwater flooded New York’s subway system, extensive damage was done to infrastructure, and the final death count may not yet be tallied. In addition to these overwhelming misfortunes, mass blackouts were caused by down power lines and the explosion at Consolidated Edison substation located on Manhattan’s East River.  You can see footage of the explosion in this YouTube video:   Consolidated Edison Inc. has said that some customers may be without power for a week.  Sara Banda of Consolidated Edison says “This is the largest storm-related outage in our history.”    At its peak, power outages spanned across 21 states, blacking out 8.48 million homes and businesses.  According to Reuters, around 6.2 million homes and businesses are still without power.      Since this natural disaster, power companies have been struggling to restore electricity and have since done so for 2.4 million homes thus far. We’ve had customers from areas hit by the hurricane calling about solar powered generators, such as the Ecotricity Eco1800S, Solar Powered Generator.  Times like this remind us to prepare as best we can for emergency situations. Our thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones and we wish for a safe, swift recovery for the communities affected by Hurricane Sandy....

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Siemens is Still in Solar

If you were to google “siemens solar” right now, you’d probably see a number of damning headlines regarding Siemens’ role in the solar industry.  This last Monday, the 22nd of October, Siemens AG made the announcement that Siemens Solar & Hydro division of Siemens Energy will be discontinuing its solar business.  The news comes only a few years after Siemens acquired Solel, an Israeli solar thermal company. Siemens has modified their focus in renewable energy and intends to center their attention to Wind and Hydro. Many reporters have jumped to conclusions about Siemens recent announcement, proclaiming that Siemens is no longer in the solar business.  Recent headlines imply that the company is no longer doing business in the solar industry.    Siemens will keep on producing products for both commercial and residential solar, just not through Siemens Solar & Hydro division of Siemens Energy. When I spoke with a Siemens representative regarding this matter, I learned that despite the commotion, it’s business as usual for Siemens Low and Medium Voltage Division. Outside of the energy sector, the company will still offer solar thermal and photovoltaics including generators, steam turbines, grid technology, and controls systems (outside of the Energy Sector). Siemens Low and Medium Voltage division will continue to produce Siemens products such as their solar safety switches, solar meter combinations, and siemens microinverters.   Their announcement doesn’t change the Solar PPA program from Siemens Infrastructure and Cities sector, Building Technologies Division....

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30-Year-Old Solar Panel Meets Original Specs
Oct23

30-Year-Old Solar Panel Meets Original Specs

Martin Halloway, a green building designer, had been living without electricity for five years before he purchased his first solar panel in 1980.  This exact module, an Arco Solar 16-2000, 33-watt solar panel, was manufactured in 1979 and continues to produce power today. Image Credits: www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/  A couple of years ago, Halloway decided to bring the solar panel down from his roof after 30 years and test it out.  It was an unusually crisp, clear day of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Halloway’s solar panel was designed for a 12-Volt battery (Max. Voltage of 16VDC), so he tested the module by connecting it directly to 12-Volt loads.   Halloway’s first test was connecting a 35 Watt, 12 Volt incandescent light bulb.  The light bulb lit up, passing test number one.  Halloway says that his Fluke multimeter showed the voltage of the module at 14.93 Volts with a full load of 2.015 amps. Next, Halloway connected the Arco Solar Panel to a 4.5 amp, 12 Volt blower. The blower drew a full 2.5 amps from the thirty-year-old module, which is actually higher than the module’s factory specifications. When Halloway called up the manufacturer to share the exciting news, they were surprised but explained how this was probably due to the cool weather during this test. The cooler temperature must have made for a 10% increase in performance. Warranties generally cover a solar module for up to 25 years at 80% nominal output.  To be considered effective by most manufacturers, a solar panel has to operate at least 80% of its rated peak output. So even when some older modules may not reach that 80% mark of the rated peak output, they can continue to produce smaller amounts of energy for years after their warranties are up.  This Arco solar panel, however, far outlived its warranty and is certainly working well into its old age. With the improvements to solar panels since 1979, how long into the future will some of today’s solar panels be functional?...

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Federal Tax Credit for Residential PV
Oct18

Federal Tax Credit for Residential PV

At GoGreenSolar.com, we are often asked about the federal tax credits that apply to customers who use solar electric systems to power their homes.  Though we’re not tax experts, we’ve spent some time gathering information about these federal tax incentives for residential PV installations.  Here’s what we’ve learned:  The federal government offers tax credits to encourage the adoption of renewable energy.  These tax credits are 30% of the net cost of your solar electric system.  What is a tax credit? Unlike a tax deduction that takes money off your taxable income, tax credits will reduce your taxes by a specific dollar amount, directly offsetting your bill.  Of course, you do have to be paying taxes to benefit from tax credits. Who qualifies for the 30% federal tax credit? If you have recently put a solar electric system in service on your property, you qualify for a 30% federal tax credit.  To receive the tax credits for a residential solar system, the home with the system doesn’t have to be your primary living place.   So if you put solar on a second home, you’ll still qualify for the 30% tax credit.   If you are renting your home, however, you would not qualify. Is that 30% of the total cost or do they calculate it differently? Total (Gross) Cost – Utility/State Rebates = Tax Basis for 30% Tax Credit   First, determine the gross cost of your solar electric system, including all equipment, labor, and qualified expenditures.  Next, subtract any rebates you received from your utility company and/or state.   The tax basis by which your tax credit will be determined is calculated after any state or utility rebates have been subtracted.  Unless they qualify as income on your taxes, these rebates need to be subtracted before calculating your 30% federal tax credit.  This will give you the net cost of your project, which will be used to calculate your tax credit.  Net Cost x 0.3 = 30% Federal Tax Credit Does this apply to DIY solar electric systems? Yes. Just like any other solar electric system, a DIY solar system qualifies for the 30% federal tax credit.    If you hire help for your DIY project, have them write you an invoice for their labor and bill you.  Just remember, as in any case, to save ALL your receipts for tax purposes! What form do I use? Use the IRS Form 5695 to claim your tax credit, and submit this document with your taxes.   Be sure to keep all receipts and Manufacturer’s Certification Statements for your records. For more information about incentives in your area, visit dsireusa.org.  ...

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Cross-Mating PV Connectors
Oct10

Cross-Mating PV Connectors

DIY Solar Tip:  Cross-mating may not be the best idea. There are over thirty other connector manufacturers in the PV industry today: Amphenol, Weiland, Radox, Tyco, Bizlink, and SMK, just to name a few.   MC4, or Multi Contact connector for four square millimeter cable, is the standard locking system in the PV industry today. There are some manufacturers that will make the claim that their connectors are compatible with MC4. It is important to note that even though it is often possible to physically connect these, it does not mean it is an approved connection.  Though H4 connectors are often marketed as “fully intermateable with industry standard,” this interconnection is not approved by UL, or Underwriters Laboratories. Amphenol, the manufacturer of H4 connectors, has released reports TUV tests to confirm the compatibility between H4 with MC4.  In fact, these connectors have frequently been intermated with MC4 connectors, but it still does not have UL approval.  Even if both connectors have UL approval individually, connecting the two is not approved by UL. Cross-mating can cause additional problems, therefore GoGreenSolar.com does not recommend cross-mating connectors as a general rule of thumb.    Unless the connectors come from the same manufacturer, they often times have different chemical compositions, which can lead to oxidation and other complications. When different connectors are interconnected, potential gaps in the connection can also cause arcing and ultimately, failure. Just because they will “fit” doesn’t mean it is kosher. ...

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