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How to make a light source out of plastic bottles.
Jan08

How to make a light source out of plastic bottles.

Well over a billion people on our planet don’t have access to electricity and this D.I.Y. solar light can brighten homes during the day and replace toxic kerosine lamps. Watch this video: 4 easy steps to light a room with a solar bottle lamp: 1. Add a couple teaspoons of bleach to keep the water clean. 2. Drill a hole in roofing to fit the circumference of the plastic bottle. 3. Push the bottle up through the hole in the roofing. 4.  Seal the the bottle with polyester resin to prevent a leaking roof. [i] It’s a stunningly simple lighting solution: sunlight passes through the water inside the bottle, refracting light, and brightening the room. Even though you might not insert a 2-liter bottle into your roof, this might also come in handy if you’re want to illuminate the inside of a tree-house. Check out the infographic below and “share” this page if you think this is cool!    ...

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Texas $2 per Watt Rebate?
Nov27

Texas $2 per Watt Rebate?

Coserv’s per Watt Rebate If you’re one of the 141,000 member-owners of the  Coserv Electric Cooperative in Texas and you’re thinking about going solar, you’re smart. You might have heard that this co-op utility offers a $2 per DC Watt rebate on solar generation. $2 per Watt? This rebate means homeowners in Texas can get $2 per DC Watt installed.  Many solar rebates are based on the size of the solar system in AC Watts,  which is a measurement of the system after the electricity has been converted from DC to grid-quality AC power.  A $2/ AC Watt rebate would already be a very strong incentive, but this rebate is in DC, which means more money in your pocket. $2/W DC  >  $2/W AC For example:  you’re installing a 2kW (or 2,000W) grid-tied solar system.  That number “2kW” is based on the sum total of watts in your solar system – we’ll call it eight 250W solar panels. In this case, you would qualify for a rebate of $4,000, given that the funds allocated towards this rebate program haven’t yet been exhausted. Depending on the size of your system, this  rebate your 2 kW (or 2000 Watt) solar system will yield a couple hundred dollars more. This utility rebate program caps off at $5,000 for each system, which is equal to a 2.5kW solar system.  Contact us today for solar design help and while you’re at it, fill out the Coserv solar rebate application form.  All 2013 funds were reserved in early 2013.   Check their website at the beginning of 2014 for any changes to this rebate and get on the list so they can reserve funds for your project.   Rebates are paid out after your solar system is installed and inspected by a Coserv Auditor. On top of this rebate from Coserv, you’ll also qualify for the Federal Tax Credit.   After any state/local/utility rebates have been subtracted (including Coserv’s solar rebate), 30% of this net cost is returned to you in the form of a tax credit that directly reduces the dollar amount you pay on your taxes....

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No CA Rebate without Solar Panel Monitoring?
Nov15

No CA Rebate without Solar Panel Monitoring?

Homeowners using the Enphase Envoy to monitor their solar panel output can qualify for an upfront, lump-sum rebate through California’s Expected Performance-Based Buydown (EPBB). What’s the EPBB Rebate? The Expected Performance-Based Buydown (EPBB) is one of two incentive options offered by the California Solar Initiative (CSI). The EPBB is an upfront rebate for small businesses and homeowners with systems 30kW or less (as opposed to systems greater than 30kW, which would qualify for 5 years of monthly payments through a Performance-Based Incentive).  If you qualify for the EPBB rebate, you’ll get the entire payment at the time of installation. The EPBB rebate is determined mainly by the expected performance of a photovoltaic system, which is based on factors including CEC-AC rating, tilt, orientation, location, and shading. To qualify for the EPBB rebate, you need to get a monitoring system like the Enphase Envoy Communications Gateway to track the output of your solar panels.  With a reporting accuracy of ±5%, Enphase monitoring is sufficient for the EPBB rebate, whereas revenue-grade meters with ±2% would be required for PV systems of 30kW or greater under CSI’s Performance-Based incentive.   Enphase monitoring systems include: Enphase or Siemens Microinverters Envoy Communications GatewayTM Enlighten® web-based monitoring and analysis software For more information about monitoring requirements, visit the CSI Website.   How does Enphase work? The Enphase Envoy is designed for PV systems with Enphase Microinverters, which attach behind each solar panel, turning the DC electricity from each solar panel into usable AC electricity. With each microinverter working independently, Enphase systems are optimized for locations prone to shading from nearby trees and make it easy to add solar panels to your system in the future. Each mircoinverter is connected to the internet with it’s own IP address, so the web-based software Enlighten provides data about your system’s output – whether you’re at home on your PC or using your the Enlighten app your iPhone.   Each microinverter operating independently means you can see the output of individual panels in your array, making troubleshooting issues much easier than a string inverter would. Enphase microinverter systems are recommended for small grid-tied systems, systems with multiple arrays, and systems with potential shading concerns. Benefits of Enphase Systems: Easy installation Design flexibility & scalability Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) Optimized for shading Remote monitoring capability...

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Quick Look at STC vs. PTC Ratings
Sep17

Quick Look at STC vs. PTC Ratings

What’s the differnce between STC & PTC? Looking at the specifications for a solar panel, you’re going to see two distinct ratings:  STC and PTC, both of which refer to DC (direct current) Watts of the solar panel. STC rating Standard Test Conditions, or STC ratings, are the solar panel’s name plate value.  This means that if it’s a Sharp ND-250QCS, 250 Watt solar panel, the STC rating is 250 Watts.   STC ratings reflect the solar panel’s production in ideal conditions, which is actually a flash of light shot at the solar panel in a lab environment. PTC rating When you’re looking to get an idea of PV output, PTC ratings are a more realistic number to look at.   PTC ratings, or PVUSA (Photovoltaics for Utility Systems Applications) Test Conditions, show the results from a test that more closely mimics real-world conditions.  PTC ratings are based on 1,000 Watts per square meter of solar irradiance at 10 meters above ground level, at 20 degrees Celsius, and with a wind speed of 1 meter per second. As seen in the image above, the Sharp ND-250QCS, 250W solar panel has a PTC rating of 223.6 Watts.  If you were using these solar panels for your photovoltaic system, using the PTC rating of 223.6W to estimate output would provide a more accurate, “real-world” number than the STC rating of 250W. Keep in mind that there are still other factors that will effect PV output.   There will usually be some energy loss via wires, inverters, etc.  There’s also normal degradation of solar panels over time and environmental factors such as soiling (dirt), heat, and shading....

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What’s the optimal angle for my solar panels?
Aug08

What’s the optimal angle for my solar panels?

Enter in your country, state, and city to calculate the optimum tilt of your solar panels every month. The optimal angle varies throughout the year, depending on the seasons and your location and this calculator shows the difference in sun height on a month-by-month basis.  For even more precise angling, you would need to track the sun as it moves throughout the day on a minute-by-minute basis.  This can be accomplished with an automated mechanical solar tracker, but unfortunately this is not very economical. The sun reaches its peak at solar noon each day (exactly half way between sunrise and sunset) and this calculator shows the angle at that time of day. At solar noon, the irradiance from the sun is at its zenith and you can generate the most energy. As an example, the sun is due south at solar noon in the northern hemisphere.  To get the best performance out of your photovoltaic panels, you would face them due south at the optimum angle so that the panel is receiving as much sunlight as possible at this time. The best angle for your solar project also depends on when you want to get the best out of your photovoltaic system. If you want the best performance during the summer months (when there is the most sunlight), you would angle your photovoltaic panels according to the height of the sun in the sky during these months. If you have the ability to adjust your photovoltaic panels throughout the year, you will benefit from having the optimum performance from your solar system all of the time. If you like this calculator please...

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Are solar panels tested for hail?
Aug01

Are solar panels tested for hail?

Are solar panels tested for hail, golf balls, or other kinds of impact? If solar panels are broken by some kind of impact, is this damage covered by the solar panel manufacturer’s warranty? If you’re about to drop thousands of dollars on a solar system that’s supposed to last a few decades, you obviously want to be confident that you’re not investing in equipment that could be ruined by one day of extreme weather.  It’s a valid concern. The ambiguity regarding hail resistance and impact testing for solar panels can be frustrating, so I spoke with a claims representative from a major solar panel manufacturer to get some clarification. The short answer is that there’s probably no manufacturer’s warranty that will cover this kind of damage, but any high-quality solar panel will have tempered glass that’s designed to take a beating and tested accordingly. If you’re worried about protecting your investment from this kind of damage, make sure that you pull a permit for the system and consult your property insurance provider.  There should be no problem getting the coverage you need if you go by the books. Back to the question about manufacturer’s warranty-  even though you likely won’t find a manufacturer’s warranty that covers hail damage, any reputable brand will test their solar panels to obtain industry-recognized quality certifications. In North America, these tests are a 5 ft·lbs impact of a 2 inch diameter ball of 1.18 lbs that’s dropped at a distance of 51 inches- no parts of the solar panel can be damaged to acquire this label.  If the solar panel has undergone this standardized testing successfully, you will see something like this in the specifications sheet. Quality Certifications from the Sharp ND-240QCJ specification sheet Because solar panel manufacturers usually sell to markets outside of the United States, modules are often subject to additional testing standards such as Europe’s “IEC.” Quality Certifications from Canadian Solar CS6P-240P specification sheet The European quality certificate specifically for hail is IEC 61215, which is circled in the image above.  Solar panels with this label were shot with frozen ice balls at varying sizes and speeds from an air gun. The most substantial of this IEC impact testing comes at 39.5 m/sec from a 203 gram ice ball.  The solar module must perform at a maximum of 5% degradation with no visible damage. If you live in an area that’s prone to hail storms, you should get solar panels that have been tested for impact and talk with your homeowner’s insurance company about your coverage options. That being said, if your system is going to experience hail that would dwarf...

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