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Numbers Don’t Lie: National Solar Employment Growing

It has become increasingly difficult to lump the entire solar industry into the “Solyndra” category since last September.  On Friday, The Solar Foundation’s 2012 Census Press Release announced that the solar industry has added 13, 872 jobs in the last 12 months, amounting to a 13.2% employment growth rate from the preceding year.  Meanwhile, the U.S. economy as a whole saw employment growth of 2.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.   The Solar Foundation’s findings show that 1 in 230 American jobs created between September 2011 and September 2012 were in the solar industry. Partially due to state and federal efforts to incentivize solar adoption and the decreasing price of PV, solar has emerged as one of the fastest growing industries in the United States, with 119,016 Americans working in the solar industry as of September 2012. “The solar industry has grown at significantly higher rates than most other industries in the past several years, making it one of the foremost creators of new jobs in the United States,” says The Solar Foundation’s Executive Director Andrea Luecke, “Our census findings indicate that these new jobs are highly skilled in nature, including solar installation, sales, marketing and software development. These new solar industry jobs are sustainable, cannot be outsourced and play a critical role in our country’s economic recovery.” Luecke hit the nail on the head.  She uses the term sustainable to describe the jobs within our industry.  The very nature of the work requires discipline, fine-tuned skillsets, accessibility to customers, and the overarching goal of sustainability.  The long-term success of the solar industry in the U.S. rests upon this solid foundation.  The Solar Foundation’s full report is to be released on November 14, 2012 at the Clean Energy Workforce Education Conference in Albany, New York.  The Solar Foundation can then shed some light on the full implications of the data they have collected this past year.  The report will include an analysis of the factors that brought about this industry growth, the jobs created within specific subsectors, and employment growth projections for 2013.  The Solar Foundation 2012 Census Press Release:  ...

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Cost per Watt Decreases, Efficiency Increases
Nov02
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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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