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Battle of the Solar Panel Brands

Have you ever hear of Battle of the Bands? It’s contest in which many bands, usually rock bands but often from a range of different styles, compete for the title of “best band”. The winner is determined by judges, the response of the audience, or a combination. The winning band usually receives a prize in addition to bragging rights. These days there many solar panels flooding the marketplace that it’s becoming more difficult for consumers to make informed decisions, most customers just can’t tell the difference. Why not take different brands of solar panels and make them compete head to head in my backyard? So I called up my friend Dennis Epp, President & CEO of Heritage Solar, a leading solar contractor in Southern California and teamed up to bring to you The Battle of the Solar Panel Brands. Even though solar panels look very similar to each other, not all are created equal. Each make/model of solar panels have their unique characteristics which allow them to produce more or less power in different environments. By adding Enphase Micro Inverters to each solar panel and connecting the system to the internet, we will be able to share live production data with you through our website 365 days a year. But before we can get to the competition we have to build the stage. I got a big backyard with limited shading, therefore we have plently room to install a ProSolar GroundTrac mounting structure to secure the solar panels in a 30 degree pitch facing true south (192 degrees in our case) We’ll be installing the following six solar panels to kick off the competition off: #1 – Sanyo HIP-215NKHA5 #2 – REC REC215AE-US #3 – Sharp ND-U230C1 #4 – Canadian Solar CS6P-230 #5 – SolarWorld SW 230 #6 – Solon P220/6+/01 230Wp Our goal is to get the solar array up and running before January 1st, so we may begin collecting solar panel production data from the first day of the new year. We’re still waiting for the City of West Covina to approve our permit to build GoGreenSolar Labs and hopefully the weather will cooperate with us the rest of this month so we can finish this project as soon as possible. Stay...

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install unisolar pvl laminate on a metal roof

I’ve had a couple people ask me how to install Uni-Solar’s flexible thin film laminate PVL product line on a metal roof. The unique part of Uni-Solar PVL product is it can be bonded directly to a metal roof between the ridges. Traditional solar panels would need racking and mounting components that are not required with a uni-solar PVL installation, therefore installing the laminate reduces balance of system costs. Also these thin film laminates are extremely durable since they are not made of glass like traditional solar panels. I think the uni-solar product line works well when you have a lot of surface area to work with, aesthetics is a major concern in the project, or have a shady/cloudy project since thin film solar panels perform better than crystalline solar panels in those conditions. The video below is a good overview of how these unique thin film solar panels can be installed on a metal roof. What do you think about the uni-solar PVL thin film flexible solar...

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energy needed to cook our turkeys

As Americans across the nation flip on their ovens to cook their Thanksgiving turkeys, I’m sitting here thinking the nation’s electric grid is going to take a big hit today to supply the energy required to power this historic day. So how much power is it really going to take to cook our Thanksgiving meals? Has attempted to estimate how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) will it require to cook our country’s beloved turkeys? I think not! I feel like doing some math today, so let’s get to the bottom of this ever so important question. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the U.S. for Thanksgiving. American per capita consumption of turkeys has soared from 8.3 pounds in 1975 to17.5 pounds in 2007. Most of the ovens in America are electric, according to Mr. Electricity’s, How much electricity does my stuff use? the average oven uses 4,400 continuous watts when cranked up all the way, which is$5 typically required to cook a Turkey throughly. It takes approximately 4 hours to roast a 17lb turkey in the oven. 4,400 watts (oven) * 4 hours (time to cook) = 17,600 watt hours 17,600 watt hours / 1,000 watts = 17.6 kWh per turkey   45,000,000 (number of turkeys cooked) * 17.6kWh = 792,000,000 kWh Since most people can’t relate to 792,000,000 kWhs, let me quantify kWh to $. The average nationwide cost per kWh is 12 cents. Therefore it will cost $2.11 in electricity costs per turkey roasted today. 45,000,000 (number of turkeys cooked) * $2.11 (electricity cost) = $94,950,000 So I guess the Turkey suppliers aren’t the only ones making a lot of money on Thanksgiving but the companies providing you electricity to cook your turkey are making close to 100 million dollars today! 792M kWh is a lot of energy, in fact I went to NationMaster to check up how much electricity is produced on an annual basis from all sources for each country around the world and I realized that 56 countries generate less than 792M kWh on annual basis! I hope that makes a good comparison of how much electricity is consumed to celebrate Thanksgiving by roasting turkeys in the oven. I got a couple suggestions of how you can offset your dependence on the electric grid next Thanksgiving by going solar without breaking your pocketbook. Global Sun Oven – Solar Cooker When pointed in the optimal direction the can boil, steam, roast or bake food at cooking temperatures of 360° F / 182° C, making it ideal for cooking the majority of foods, including most turkeys. The...

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rail-free solar panel mounting

Traditionally, solar panels are a tedious process to install because the process of installing solar panels on a residential rooftop involves the rails to be cut, spliced together and the metal frame of the solar panels and rails themselves have to be grounded according to code. Currently the process is quite primitive and can be time consuming even though the two most popular solar panel mounting companies, UniRac and ProSolar are offering new products to reduce parts and installation time, the companies fail to remove the rails. ZepSolar, a startup solar panel mounting manufacturer will be introducing a new way to mount solar panels to your home’s roof without rails at the upcoming Solar Power International trade show in Anaheim. The rail-free, auto-grounding drop-in solar panel mounting system is an ultra efficient method of attaching solar panels to your roof that according to the company installs 6 times faster than conventional systems and greatly reduces material waste while enhancing the structural integrity and aesthetics of solar panels. Prices of solar panels have been dropping like a rock, since there is an oversupply of solar panels in the market. Although other system components such as inverters and racking systems have not dropped in prices as fast as solar panels. ZepSolar claims that by removing cumbersome rails out process of installing solar panels can save up to $1,000 per kilowatt installed. What do you think about ZepSolar’s innovative approach to simplifying solar panel...

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solar panels + grid alternatives = fun

I had a great weekend volunteering for GRID Alternatives to install solar panels for a low income family in Lynwood, CA. For those of you who don’t know GRID Alternatives, they’re a non-profit who’s on a mission to empower communities in need by providing renewable energy and energy efficiency services, equipment and training. Since 2001, GRID Alternatives has been working to bring the power of solar electricity and energy efficiency to low-income homeowners, and to provide community members with training and hands-on experience with renewable energy technologies. GRID Alternatives believes making energy choices that are good for the environment can go hand-in-hand with improving the lives of those living in low-income communities. It took Anna and Alan, experienced Grid Alternatives staff and the team of volunteers two full days at to complete the installation of the 1.4 kW solar electric system which consisted of 7 Canadian Solar 200 watt (CS6PE) solar panels, a PVPowered 2000 watt (PVP2000) grid tie inverter and Pro Solar mounting hardware. The most difficult part of installing the solar panels over the detached garage was working on the concrete s-tile roof. These are very delicate type of roof tiles, walking on them without breaking them is impossible, it’s like walking on egg shells. It took us extra time to replace all the roofing s-tile shingles that were damaged in the process. The hot Southern California climate did not spare us over the weekend, during the afternoon the s-tiles shingles became extremely hot making it even more difficult and uncomfortable to get the mounting hardware installed. Before the 6 inch standoffs were installed and sealed with silicon, the fast jacks needed to be attached to the rafters of the detached garage. Also each penetrations needed flashing to ensure they are water tight. Locating the rafters in a building and making sure you’re drilling into them is a challenging part of installing solar panels. Once the standoffs were in place the roof team was ready for the rails which were assembled on the ground. We had to cut the Pro Solar Rails to size and have them prepared for the roof team to secure to the stand offs. There are many components involved with putting the rails together, which could be confusing if you don’t have all your parts organized. After the rails were passed on from the ground to the roof, they were immediately attached to the standoffs. Once we got the rails secured to the standoffs, it was time to get the solar panels mounted on top of the rails. It was easier to get the solar panels mounted to the rails because we had...

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What’s the deal with Enphase?

The Enphase Micro-inverter has built some serious buzz in the solar power industry since it solves many of the issues with using a central inverter. By adding an inverter behind every solar panel, the DC electricity generated by the solar panels is directly converted to low voltage AC at the solar panel level which increases the safety of the system. Also having an inverter behind solar panel makes the system more reliable because if one inverter fails, the entire system does not go down. The major downfall with central inverters is that they are wired in strings, and the performance of the entire string of solar panels is equal to it’s weakest solar panel, therefore if part of a solar panel is shaded the entire string will lose its ability to perform at it’s maximum ability. The advantage of having a micro inverter behind every solar panel is that each panel has the power of MPPT (maximum power point tracking) reducing the performance losses related to shading. I’d say the two major issues with the Enphase Micro Inverters today is how long will the inverters last when they are on top of hot roofs? Especially here in Southern California, during the summer temperatures under a solar panel have been measured to exceed 13o degrees. Will the electronics in the Enphase Micro Inverter be able to last 15 years? Also, Enphase is having a supply and demand issue, according to the company one of their parts suppliers dropped the ball which has caused a drop in their production output. Many customers have been trying to purchase Enphase Micro Inverters although we have to turn them away because the product is on backorder with long lead times. What do you think about all the buzz around the Enphase Micro-Inverter? Do you think the concept of Micro-Inverters is a valid...

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