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USA Today Features GoGreenSolar Customer’s Dream Home!

GoGreenSolar.com customers Philippe and Thao Jeanty have received national attention after purchasing a 9.4 kW solar system with GoGreenSolar.com.  The couple from Tennessee was recently featured on USAToday.com. and mentioned in the New York Times.  Here’s their story. Philippe Jeanty is a radiologist in Nashville, Tenneessee, though he was actually born in Congo and lived in Belgium for some time.  Philippe lives with his wife Thao, who grew up in Vietnam. Philippe made a trip to the United States in the late seventies, where became interested in energy efficiency.   This curiosity eventually became the driving force behind the development of the couple’s sustainable dream home that most clean energy enthusiasts will only passively dream of.   Their home now has geothermal heating and cooling, it’s own drip irrigation system to water their garden, solar hot water heating, and a photovolatic (PV) system. Philippe he received help from a local solar guru with the photovoltaic (PV) installation, but he designed the plans for his home with an application called Google SketchUp.  Philippe bypassed the typical method of hiring an architect, allowing him to channel his DIY work ethic.  The SkechUp plans were converted to blueprints by Scott Jenkins, and the house was built by Green Homes (Johnny and Travis Johnson). Local springs supply the couple with usable water for their quaint farm. Their home is even set up with a drip-irrigation system to water their orchard and garden!  To heat their water, they make use of an evacuated tube solar heating system by Apricus.  According to Philippe, the water heater produces an excess of hot water in the summer.  “We have to flush out some hot water from time to time,” comments Philippe.   The interior of the home is equipped with LED lighting and clerestory windows that provide great light in the summer with no insolation.  They oriented the house on an East-West axis to get the best insolation possible.  South-facing windows are shaded during the summer months by the roof overhang, and are fully insolated during the winter to help passively warm the house.  In addition to designing the home for passive solar, the six and a half inch walls are insultated with a corn-based spray foam. They have also installed a geothermal heating and cooling system under their hickory wood floors, which they haven’t had to use the past three winters, even with outside temperatures of five degrees Fahrenheit! Philippe and Thao held onto wood, windows, bathroom fixtures, and just about anything from their previous home that could be repurposed.  By collecting fallen trees on the property for their wood-burning stove, Philippe and Thao keep their home toasty during the winter months.   Wood that was once part of their old house...

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To Buy or Not to Buy? Solar System Purchase Vs Power Purchase Agreement
Jun20

To Buy or Not to Buy? Solar System Purchase Vs Power Purchase Agreement

Solar System Purchase vs. Power Purchase Agreement  Long before there were any federal or state funds to help offset the initial investment of a residential solar system, installations were on the rise.  Solar adoption has increased significantly since the inception of the federal solar tax incentive in 2006, which rebates 30% of the purchase price of the system.  In 2007, the California Solar Initiative was implemented to offset all or part of the cost of installation in proportion to the system’s actual or projected performance.  With all of this support from the government, it’s no wonder that more people have gone solar in the last two years than the last twenty years combined!  A portion of these new systems were not purchased by homeowners however. Companies like Sun Run and Solar City offer the benefits of solar without the upfront cost of the system through the contracted sale of solar electricity in what is known as a solar power purchase agreement, or solar PPA.  A solar PPA brings a mini-power plant right to a home-owner’s roof, so there is no additional charge for delivery, which usually accounts for as much as 40% of an average electricity bill.  No delivery charges plus savings from federal and state rebates drive the cost down, making solar electricity rates cheaper than the majority of grid rates.  For more information on these agreements and how they work, see this informative article about SPPAs . Up until recently, homeowners have had no choice when it comes to buying power.   Customers sign up for an indefinite PPA with their local utility when they move in to a new residence and watch their electricity bills increase every year.  Now homeowners have the option to buy their own power plant and create electricity on-site or defer the ownership of the same system to a solar services provider, in which case they tack on another utility bill but potentially protect themselves from electricity rate hikes. So which option will work best for you?  That depends on several factors, including your own values in regards to ownership.  Put simply, for those who don’t have the up-front capital to invest in their own system, the SPPA may make more sense as long as the combination of their post-solar utility bill and the solar bill is less than what they were paying on the pre-solar utility bill.   If ownership is important to you, but funds are still a factor, there are financing options available which will result in a monthly payment towards the purchase of the system.   This purchase option ends up looking very similar to a system lease,...

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Solar Power Purchase Agreements

If you are looking for the benefits of solar electricity with little to no upfront cost, minimal risk, and no maintenance responsibilities, you may want to look into a Solar Power Purchase Agreement (SPPA).  The sections below begin with a short and simple summary under each heading, followed by a more in-depth explanation to aid in understanding this solar option. What is a normal Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)? A PPA is an agreement in which the customer agrees to buy electricity from a power source at a particular rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Everyone who buys electricity from a utility company such as PG&E or Southern California Edison enters into a PPA without much choice in the matter.  You agree to pay for the generation, transmission, and distribution of the electricity from their power plant in a tiered rate schedule per kWh for an indefinite amount of time.  Typically, these rates increase every year in proportion to the utility’s increasing costs. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) sets a limit to how much profit these companies make every year, so their increasing costs are caused by anything from increasing salaries and pensions to making repairs caused by weather, accidents, or the aging infrastructure of the grid.  Whatever the cause of the increasing cost of electricity, homeowners have little choice but to continually pay more for what they use, or use less grid power.  The latter choice is where solar options (purchase, lease, or PPA) come in. What is a Solar Power Purchase Agreement (SPPA)? An SPPA is similar to a PPA, except that the source of power is located on the homeowner’s property, and the agreement often includes a contracted increase in rates as well as an amount of time the user agrees to purchase the power. An SPPA is an agreement in which a third-party owns, operates, and maintains the photovoltaic system, and a host customer agrees to have the system installed on their property. Homeowners simply purchase the electricity utility-style from the solar services provider for a predetermined period rather than purchasing the system itself.  This framework is referred to as the “solar services” model, and the developers who offer SPPAs are known as solar services providers.  There are several other players involved in this model. The utility company continues to provide part of the host customer’s electricity.  The equipment manufacturer provides the hardware for the system, which the installers implement and maintain.  Investors, such as US Bank, provide the capital for the equipment.  A seperate special purpose entity manages the solar electricity payments, tax benefits, depreciation, ownership and leasing between the solar services provider and investors. SPPAs enable...

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Pure Sine Wave Inverters vs. Modified Sine Wave Inverters
Jun19

Pure Sine Wave Inverters vs. Modified Sine Wave Inverters

True Sine Wave or Modified Sine Wave?Because the AC electricity from the electric grid is in the form of sine wave, the inverters we use aim to produce a current that is as close to sine wave as possible.  While modified sine wave inverters present an inexpensive alternative, there is no comparison to the clean, undistorted sine wave provided by pure sine wave inverters.   Pure Sine Wave Inverter    A pure sine wave inverter, also known as a true sine wave inverter, produces a clean, undistorted electrical output.  Depending on the manufacturer of the product, pure sine inverters have a perfect sine wave output that’s in phase with the AC grid of the utility company.  Because of the sinusoidal form, pure sine wave inverters are used for grid-tie solar systems and work for virtually any AC load.  Cotek SK3000-148, 3000 Watt 48V Pure Sine Wave Inverter Because they produce no harmonic distortions in the frequency, pure sine wave inverters allow any electronic device to function well without overheating or creating an irritating “buzz” sound.  Though pure sine wave inverters are undoubtedly the best and most versatile kind of inverter, they are more expensive than modified sine wave inverters.   Pure sine wave inverters are necessary for highly sensitive products such as digital clocks, audio equipment, and video-game consoles.  As a general rule of thumb, if you’re powering any electronics, you’ll probably want to stick with a pure sine wave inverter.  The image below displays the difference between a pure sine wave and a modified sine wave.   Modified Sine Wave Inverters   The cheaper alternative to a pure sine wave inverter is a modified sine wave inverter.  A modified sine inverter converts DC electricity to a nonsinusoidal AC wave that is “modified,” or distorted.   When an inverter produces modified sine wave, the voltage output (represented in the Y axis of the image) essentially jumps from zero volts to positive, where it plateaus and drops back to zero, to negative voltage, and then back to zero again. This is signified in the image by the squared edges seen in the modified sine wave, which is contrasted by the smooth oscillation of a voltage that is produced by a pure sine wave inverter.  The modified sine wave is a stepped waveform that is designed to mimic a true sine wave.  Because it is not a clean form of energy, modified sine wave does generate a certain kind of interference called harmonic distortion (though not as much as a square wave). Modified sine wave inverters can work for the majority of low-end appliances, but take caution when using them for your...

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Volunteer with GRID Alternatives!

Established in 2001, GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit organization that provides low income communities access to solar energy.  GRID Alternatives was founded by two engineers who are driven to make clean energy accessible to the low-income communities that need solar energy the most.  The people at GRID Alternatives are on a mission “to empower communities in need by providing renewable energy and energy efficiency services, equipment and training.” In addition to helping families produce their own solar energy, GRID Alternatives provides a unique educational experience for its volunteers.  Unemployed and underemployed individuals from the community are encouraged to cultivate a valuable skill-set through volunteer and team leader programs. By working on installations for the Solar Affordable Housing Program, volunteers get hands-on experience and networking opportunities that they couldn’t get anywhere else.  Through GRID’s Team Leader program, volunteers have the opportunity to become certified PV installers with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.   A GRID volunteer can use this real-world experience to get their foot in the door of businesses in the solar industry. The unique environment created by GRID Alternatives draws in people from all walks of life. Environmental activists, students, engineers, and professionals in the solar industry are just some of the people that volunteer with this nonprofit organization.  Everyone comes together to help the community, learn new skills, reduce CO2 emissions, and sweat bullets in the California sun. I recently had the opportunity to go on a volunteer installation with GRID Alternatives.  The mission was to install a 2.3 kW AC system for a low income home in Long Beach, California. The first day of the installation began at 8:30 am on a overcast Tuesday morning.  Shortly after the last volunteers arrived, we introduced ourselves and the project supervisor went over some basic safety precautions. While the ground team was busy prepping and splicing the ProSolar rails, several of us got up on the roof to determine how the array could be configured in compliance with the regulations in the city of Long Beach.  As the morning clouds burned off, we quickly realized that the sun would not spare us.  After taking measurements and marking the lay-out that was established by GRID team leaders, we drilled into the rafters where the ProSolar FastJack Stand-offs would soon be mounted.  Around each hole that was drilled, we cut a few inches of the surrounding roof to make room for the flashing.  After bolting the base of the standoff with caulking and inserting the flashing under the top layer of the roof, we screwed in the ProSolar FastJack Stand-off.  We then sealed a fitted washer over the flashing...

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