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Customer’s Off-Grid System

Gus Gomez is a retired university professor who spends several days out of the month at his remote, off-grid cabin in Moses Lake, Washington.  To power this stand-alone home, Gus Gomez recently purchased and installed an off-grid solar system from GoGreenSolar.com. “GoGreenSolar delivers sales and technical support and advice when needed.  I highly recommend GoGreenSolar for anyone’s solar system needs. The equipment is high quality and the technical support could not be better.”  – Professor Gus Gomez Distant from the basic amenities of city life, Gus had to transform this isolated cabin into a livable home.  Located on a 40-acre plot of farm land, this 550 square-foot cabin now has its own off-grid power, septic system, and water well, all of which are “in place free of monthly charges,” according to Gomez. “The climate in Eastern Washington provides an excellent opportunity for households and businesses to install solar systems for their electrical needs … It’s warm during summer with an average maximum temperature of 88.20 degrees Fahrenheit, while the coldest month of the year is January with an average minimum temperature of 21.70 degrees Fahrenheit.” Gus had an off-grid PV system installed to power the cabin.  Because Lake Moses frequently experiences powerful winds, Gus had the 3-module array mounted to a cylindrical pole mount instead of installing a racking solution on the roof. After drilling a ten-foot hole in the ground, they secured the twenty-foot-long steel cylinder with concrete.   At the top of the pole, three REC 235 Watt solar panels are secured with a DPW Power Fab Top of Pole Mount racking solution. This off-grid system uses eight MK 8G8DLTP Sealed Gel Batteries and a Xantrex Charge Controller. “The gel batteries are maintenance-free so we do not have to worry about them,” Professor Gomez. The couple uses the Magnum Battery Monitor Kit to view the percentage state of charge, real time amps, voltage, amp-hours in/out, and the minimum/maximum DC volts. This information is accessed through the Magnum Energy ME-ARC50 Remote Control, which acts as a command center for his system. Using the Magnum Energy ME-ARC50 Remote Control like a “fuel gauge” meter, the couple tracks the performance of their system and manages their personal kWh usage. Gus keeps his Magnum Energy Remote Control inside the cabin to check the battery level 100 feet away from the actual battery bank. The 3-panel array outside the “pump/electrical outhouse” From inside the cabin, they can also activate the MAGNUM 4400 Watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter inside the outhouse. “The system is trouble-free and easy to understand … the small monitor (Magnum Energy ME-ARC50 Remote Control) installed inside the cabin provides...

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Understanding Your Electricity Bill Part 1: The Basics
Aug27

Understanding Your Electricity Bill Part 1: The Basics

Hello solar drops and droplettes!  Electricity bills can seem quite cryptic to the uninitiated, so we are going to do our best to demystify the bills for our readers.  It is our hope that you will gain a better understanding of your electricity usage, utility rates and schedules, how you can reduce your personal usage and save money.  Once you understand how your electricity rates works, you’ll be able to determine whether or not replacing all or part of your electricity with solar makes sense in your specific situation. We’ll focus on the basics of the bill page-by-page, focusing mainly on the first and third page because the other pages contain no usage data.  Future articles will address other aspects of electricity bills, some of which were outlined above and others that will be generated directly from questions you may have.  Please post any questions in the comments and I would be happy to answer them in a later article.  Now, grab a copy of your bill to follow along, and without further ado, let’s dive in! *Please note that the example bill for this article is from Southern California Edison (SCE). Most bills have the similar information, but if there are some serious differences, feel free to ask about them.  I will address all questions in later articles or directly in the comments.* Page one is your account summary. Most of the important numbers on the bill are on this first page. The customer account number is in the upper right-hand corner. This number can be used to check your account history online or over the phone. The customer account refers to any properties signed up with the utility under the same name. The service account number is associated with specific addresses that are under the customer account. Underneath this number and associated address is the rotating outage number, which may be used to access information about scheduled blackouts for your outage group (this information is available online or by phone as well). Just below the top portion of the bill is the invoice summary of the previous bill amount, your payments, the current balance and any new charges that have accrued in the current billing period, which is listed in the top left-hand corner. Below the summary is the reading from your meter in kilowatt-hours (kWh). It provides a graph that shows your daily average electricity usage (kWh).  Use this tool to compare your daily usage as it varies month-to-month and season-to-season. The bill also offers data on your average daily usage by the year, so if you have been making efforts to reduce your usage, those...

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SMA to Release Microinverter
Aug23

SMA to Release Microinverter

We are drawing near the long-anticipated release of SMA’s first ever mircoinverter: the SMA Sunny Boy 240-US.     SMA Sunny Boy 240-US, 240 Watt Grid-Tie Micro Inverter   SMA is a German manufactuer of photovoltaic inverters that was founded in 1981 and currently holds 40% of the market for solar inverters.  SMA has consistently produced top-quality inverters for commercial and residential applications, distinguishing itself as a trustworthy brand.  Though SMA has reigned supreme in the central inverter market, microinverter manufacturers are now proving to be notable competition.    The introduction of M175 microinverters by Enphase in 2008 offered the general public an alternative to central inverters.  Like central inverters, microinverters convert the DC electricity produced by solar panels to usable AC electricity.  Microinverters, however, attach behind individual panels in the array, so each module can operate independently.  Because of this, microinverters maximize the power produced by the individual modules, which is beneficial for systems that could be subject to shading.     Enphase M215     Microinverters, such as the Enphase M215, have gained much traction in the last several years, particularly for residential systems in the United States.  Even though SMA is still the leading manufacturer of photovoltaic inverters, the popularity of products like the Enphase M215 has incrementally chipped away at SMA’s would-be customer base.  Enphase estimates that  there have been around 40,000 installations with their microinverters.   The popularity of microinverters for residential systems has provided SMA an opportunity to capitalize on their reputable name.  To address the needs of prospective customers, SMA is embracing this opportunity by creating a microinverter that will soon be offered to the public.   At the Intersolar North America (ISNA) conference, SMA showcased their expanded product line, which includes the SMA Sunny Boy 240-US.  Though SMA will continue to sell central inverters, they recommend the Sunny Boy 240-US for systems of 2 KW or less that are subject to complicated shading conditions or have multiple orientations.  According to SMA’s website:   “SMA’s Sunny Boy micro inverter system enhances design flexibility for installers in the U.S. and across the globe. It features simple installation, an innovative communications platform and superior reliability, and is especially applicable for residential systems and systems with complex shadowing situations. Among the Sunny Boy micro inverter system’s ground-breaking innovations is its ability to monitor via the Sunny Portal with  the existing Sunny Boy inverter line, making string/micro hybrid installations a reality.  Hybrid installations have the potential to minimize installation costs while maximizing energy harvest.”   Customers with SMA Sunny Boy Micro Inverters can also use the Sunny Boy 240 Power Gateway, which allows for internet-based analytics on the...

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Follow Germany’s Lead: Streamlined Permitting
Aug08

Follow Germany’s Lead: Streamlined Permitting

Germany, a leader in renewable energy, recently set a world record when it produced 22 GW of power on May 26th, 2012. At that point in time, half of the country’s electricity was generated from solar. Germany’s currently capacity for solar energy reaches about 28 GW and the country aims to reach 66GW by 2030. By the end of 2011, Germany had about 21.6 times more solar power installations per capita than the United States. Why is it that Germany, which has a much lower level of solar radiation than the United States, proportionally dwarfs the U.S. when it comes to solar installations? What is Germany doing differently? In addition to creating rewarding financial incentives for residential solar, such as their well-known Feed-in Tariff, the streamlined permitting process in Germany has given way to widespread adoption of solar energy. Germany has successfully scaled basic design and installation processes, driving down the cost and wait-time associated with residential solar. Moreover, the country has actually eliminated permitting for standard residential solar, which is part of the reason residential solar is so prominent in the country. Standardizing permitting and installation procedures to streamline these processes has helped make Germany a world leader in solar energy. In Germany, it’s not uncommon for a person to contact a solar company and have a system on their roof in less than a week- sometimes in a few days. Meanwhile, in the United States, customers frequently find themselves forking over hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in fees, undergoing a series of unnecessary inspections, and waiting weeks to have standard photovoltaic systems installed on their homes. The United States needs to follow Germany’s lead by streamlining the permitting process for standard residential solar applications. This would make residential solar considerably easier, cheaper, and more convenient for consumers in the United States. #DOE #SolarABCs Permitting in the United States: Though the price of solar products is decreasing and solar adoption is steadily increasing in the United States, the costly, inefficient permitting processes are a burden to the buyer and impede progress of the solar industry at large. Before installing a residential solar system, a permit must be obtained from the local Authority Having Jurisdiction, also known as an AHJ. Typically, permit applications for standard residential solar installations must be submitted to the AHJ in person. SunRun recommends a standard online application for solar permitting, which would drastically simplify the process. It would be much more efficient if all AHJs utilized a standard web-based application to streamline this process. This permitting processes varies too much across geographical location. This inconsistency between AHJs breeds a series of avoidable obstacles...

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London Olympics: The Greenest Games Ever?

Last Friday kicked off the beginning of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England.  Nine years of planning went towards minimizing the carbon output of this event.  An all-encompassing goal of “sustainability” was set for the 2012 Summer Olympics.   The organizers of the event aspired to make this international event socially and environmentally considerate.   Though critics are quick to point out that the event did not meet its renewable energy target of 20%, the 2012 Summer Olympics’ holistic sustainability efforts set new standards for large-scale events to build upon.  With spectators pouring into London’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games by the thousands every day, all efforts to minimize the environmental impact of the Olympics are commendable. All ticket-holders receive a one-day pass for public transportation on the day of their event, and have access to trails in Olympic Park and reduced rates for England’s coach and train services. The goal for the Olympic’s food initiative is to produce “zero waste,” so all food packaging at the events is recyclable. This is an achievement in itself because an expected 14 million meals are to be served at the events.  Overall, the 2012 Summer Olympics aims to recycle 70% of the anticipated 8,000 tons of waste produced at the events. A great deal of planning went into the design and construction of facilities to house the Olympic Games.  Embodied carbon in the construction of buildings was a serious concern for David Stubbs, head of sustainability for London’s Olympic organizing committee. Before they could even begin building, 2 million tons of soil had to be decontaminated, as it was packed with petrol, lead, tar, arsenic, and oil.  London’s Olympic Park is now a lush park with wetlands, trees, and flowers to support biodiversity in the area. Temporary structures were built from materials that will be repurposed after the games.  The baseball arena, for example, is essentially a huge tent with steel frames, covered by PVC fabric.  The materials used for this building will be disassembled and reused after the Olympics. The Copper Box Permanent structures like the Copper Box are designed to be used for many years after the Games.  The Copper Box is home to events like handball, martial arts, and wheelchair rugby.  The structure is equipped with 88 light pipes, filling the inside of the building with natural light during the day.  The outside of this modern building is made from largely recycled copper cladding, which will corrode over time to an inorganic compound called copper patina, accenting the building with shades of earthy turquoise.  The sloped roof of the Copper Box collects rainwater for the toilets, reducing the building’s water...

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