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Tale of Two Ground Mounts
Nov27

Tale of Two Ground Mounts

It could save you money or it could cost you more. It could be easy or it could be hard. Do it yourself solar is more than just strapping on a tool belt and swinging a hammer. There’s technical paper work that often gets overlooked in the excitement of building your own solar power system, which can be more arduous a task than the physical labor. When roofing contractor Ray Ragsdale decided to take his energy destiny into his own hands and build a 9.3kW solar ground mount at his home, he quickly discovered that the most challenging part of the project was getting the system approved for interconnection with PG&E’s energy grid. Ragsdale was surprised to discover that his neighbor, who purchased a similar system from GoGreenSolar, already had his system fully up and running even though Ray installed his system first. The neighbor informed us of Ray’s challenges and we stepped in to lend a hand with what many consider to be the most complicated part of the job — the paperwork.  “If it wasn’t for GoGreen I’d probably still be battling PG&E to get everything approved” said Ragsdale. An experienced roofing contractor, Ragsdale had installed solar power systems before. Much like his neighbor, his property was in a rural area and more suited for a ground mount install. The appeal of not having to climb around on a roof made the project appear easier. Ragsdale would soon learn that the paperwork for ground mount units would be an unexpected hurdle to surmount. “I’ve pulled plenty of permits as a contractor, but this was more complicated than I initially thought,” Mr. Ragsdale recalled. Purchasing 32 290W Solarworld panels with Enphase Microinverters from a “wholesale” solar company seemed like a good deal to Ragsdale on the surface. A freight truck delivered the items to his door on time, dropping everything off on a pallet rack. For Ragsdale, the plans and install were paint-by-the-numbers. When it came time to connect the system to PG&E’s grid to get his net metering rebate, the real challenge began. “PG&E rejected my application if there were any minor mistakes in the paperwork,” Ragsdale said. “For example, a missing dash in a part number didn’t match what was in their system so I got rejected and had to wait for their delayed response.” The vendor he had purchased the system off was a one and done deal, so he contacted the experts at GoGreenSolar to help interconnect his system to the grid. Details such as the proper signature, annual electrical usage, and a proper list of dated modifications were all squared away properly and submitted...

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Pennsylvania seeks more sun in 2019
Nov26

Pennsylvania seeks more sun in 2019

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Department of Energy has thrown down the gauntlet for Pennsylvania, encouraging the state to produce 10 percent of its electricity from solar by 2030. While the goal might not seem like much, especially when compared with states like California and New Jersey which have a 50% renewable target by the same year, the Keystone state faces a much bigger hurdle — currently, it only gets about 0.25 percent of its energy from the sun. Unlike states like California and New Jersey which are more than halfway towards accomplishing their renewable goals, the DEP mandate requires Pennsylvania to increase its solar production by a whooping 11,900%. The the feat would require installing approximately 11 gigawatts of new solar projects, compared to the 0.3 gigawatts that the state currently has. A recent study, however, led by the DEP has shown the mandate is not that far-fetched. The DEP study reveals that Pennsylvania has more than enough rooftops and daylight to succeed in reaching its goal. What it previously lacked were the right policies and incentives to encourage home homeowners to switch. But with the recent election results, all that is poised to change as a blue wave flipped many of the state’s congressional seats previously held by incumbents less friendly towards renewables. Solar proponents are hoping to see the state adopt more renewable loan opportunities, increased access to tax incentives to lower the upfront costs of installations, and a more aggressive carbon program that would support solar installs. Looking at the costs associated in the DEP’s study, even candidates that are more fossil fuel friendly and fiscally conservative would have to agree that the numbers add up in favor of the state making some changes.  The total investment to expand solar only be about 1.4 percent more than the state would otherwise spend on building new fossil fuel infrastructure — and those numbers are crunched before any of the more esoteric health and environmental benefits are calculated into the cost. This change in momentum coupled with a 2017 budget bill rider passed by Pennsylvania’s General Assembly, which requires the states electric utilities to buy home-grown solar credits rather than the out-of-state-credits it had been purchasing, has led to an optimistic climate for home solar to take root in near future. Previous to the 2017 change the SREC prices in Pennsylvania were based on a shared market value across a region known as the PJM, encompassing a cluster of states in the North Eastern United States. The massive saturation of SRECs gave an advantage to states that already had a head start, seeing...

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These Tools Are Needed for Do-It-Yourself Solar
Nov13

These Tools Are Needed for Do-It-Yourself Solar

You have decided to install your own solar power system. The job will go much smoother if you have all the right tools on hand. First, you will need some things on the roof and having them all up there before you start will make you much happier. Power tools for the roof work will include a drill/driver for drilling the pilot holes, driving in lags screws and tightening racking bolts. Make you use a driver with a torque setting and not an impact driver when tightening down the module clamps. If the clamps are too tight, the module glass can crack. Also make sure you have the right size drill bit and sockets in your tool belt. Be aware that not all the racking pieces will use the same size socket and some may need deep well sockets. Check everything while you are at ground level to avoid extra trips up and down that ladder. The first one is easy, but by ladder climb number ten, you will be cursing your lack of planning. You will also want a power saw for cutting the rails. A portable band saw is great for this, but you can make do with almost any saw. Most installers cut the rails after the modules are installed so choose a saw that will give you enough control to cut the rails without harming the roof. Don’t forget a fully charged battery or an extension cord for your power tools. A less common tool that is extremely helpful is a flat pry bar for breaking the shingle seal so you can slide the flashing under it.  You will also want a caulk gun for roof sealant and a basic set of hand tools up there with you; screwdriver for tightening grounding lugs, something sharp to open the tubes of roof sealant (unless you have the fancy caulk gun with the slicer), screwdriver for tightening grounding lugs, pliers to help manipulate the solid bare copper grounding wire and a hammer which works better than a standard stud finder when it comes to finding the roof rafters. Some rags for wiping up extra glops of roof sealant will also come in handy. You and your neighbors will both appreciate it if your solar panels are installed square and level which means you want a measuring tape, chalk line, string line, level and squaring tool on the roof to make that happen. Now let’s talk about the electrical work. The same drill/driver, measuring tape and level that you used on the roof will get you through mounting all the enclosures on the wall. EMT is the most...

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Win some, lose some — Fossil fuel industry spent big in 2018 midterms to beat clean energy in states where it mattered most
Nov07

Win some, lose some — Fossil fuel industry spent big in 2018 midterms to beat clean energy in states where it mattered most

Midterm elections can be a mixed bag. There are a lot of competing interests, with seats up for grabs and power shuffling from the left to the right or vise versa. 2018 was no different, but when it came to ballot measures supporting initiatives for clean energy, there were clear instances where utilities and big oil companies outspent their rivals and won. The news doesn’t bode well for the future well-being and health of our fragile little planet, however not all hope is lost. State specific incentives in areas such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which can help residents payback a 5 kW solar system in just 4 years, and incentives in New Jersey, New York, Washington D.C., California, Oregon, Connecticut, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which can help residents payback a solar system in less than 10 years, continue to remain in effect pushing the mass adoption of clean energy. LOSERS WASHINGTON Washington’s second attempt at a carbon tax has failed. Initiative 1631, which would have helped fund investments in clean environmental projects with a rising fee on carbon initiatives was slapped down by a 56% “no” vote, mostly from rural and suburban parts of the state. Perhaps it’s not so much that the majority of Washington residents don’t love their nature as it is they were swayed by the $31.5 million “No on 1631” campaign funding that came from oil companies outside the state.   ARIZONA Prop 127, which would have required Arizona utilities to get 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2050 was shut down by a resounding 70% vote “No!” Some proponents of the mandate have pointed to the biased ballot language written by the utility-friendly secretary of state for being one of the reasons the measure was so soundly defeated, while others believe it was the fact that the Arizona Public Service Co. spent nearly $22 million on ads (making it the most expensive ballot initiative in the state’s history) scaring consumers into believing the change would raise utility costs. One way to have avoided the scare tactics of such companies and broken free of their chokehold would have been to convert your home to solar, which is a trend many state residents are beginning to adopt. Who knows, perhaps in a few years more time, rising utility costs won’t be as much as concern to the majority of the population as more people switch to making their home’s energy needs more self reliant?   COLORADO Frack. You too Colorado!? Prop 112, which would have required oil and gas wells to remain 2,500 feet from any occupied building, such as schools,...

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Solar Battery Showdown: Tesla Powerwall vs Blue Ion
Nov01

Solar Battery Showdown: Tesla Powerwall vs Blue Ion

If you’ve been looking to buy a battery to store renewable energy you might have noticed something strange — the shelves are nearly empty. The energy storage market, which up until recently had more than a half-dozen varieties to choose from, has gone through a bottleneck and drastically reduced in size, leaving only two competitors with any product left to sell. The reasons for the shortage are no mystery. With the portent of next year’s tariffs looming on the horizon and a narrowing window on government incentives, 2018 saw a rush to purchase energy storage units, such as the sonnenBatterie eco and LG Chem RESU, which were selling at record low prices. Now that the dust has begun to settle, the only two companies left standing are the Tesla Powerwall and the Blue Ion 2.0. The first might not come as a shock. The Tesla Powerwall is one product in a suite of Elon Musk’s renewable innovations, which enjoyed the advantage of first mover in the marketplace back in 2015. Tesla is also a larger company, and has the industrial infrastructure to create enough supply to satisfy market demand. The Blue Ion 2.0 was a bit later to the energy storage game. Reasons for its available stock most likely have to do with the fact that its founder, Henk Rogers, also happens to be the innovator of the pop-video game franchise Tetris, affording the company with enough startup capital to create more products than its competitors. Another possible reason for its availability is its price-point. Costing nearly twice the amount of a Powerwall, the Blue Ion 2.0 might seem more pricey at first glance. However, a side by side comparison of the two products reveals some noteworthy differences that might help justify the higher price tag for consumers shopping for the best deal.   BATTERY COMPOUNDS POWERWALL Powerwall runs on lithium manganese cobalt batteries, the same sort of stuff that’s used for power tools and powertrains on vehicles. Because the battery is made partially of manganese, the raw material cost is lower than other options as cobalt can be expensive. BLUE ION 2.0 Sony’s lithium ferrous phosphate batteries, which power the Blue Ion 2.0, are a high-end battery compound allowing for more efficient power storage. These batteries aren’t plagued by the same thermal runaway that traditional energy storage units are. The company claims its batteries are safer than Tesla’s, with the difference in material quality affecting all its other performance facets down the line. CHARGE POWERWALL It takes approximately 2 hours to charge a Powerwall using either peak sunlight or grid power. The battery has a leg up on...

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3kW vs 8kW vs 20kW of Solar – What Can It Power?
Oct30

3kW vs 8kW vs 20kW of Solar – What Can It Power?

System sizing is an important part of planning your solar installation. So, how big does the system need to be? It depends on what you want to run. In this article, we will take a look at what a 3kW, 8kW and 20kW system could do for you. A 3kW solar power system will generate about 375 kWh per month or about 12.5kWh per day. So what can you do with 12.5 kWh? The simplest example is that you could run five 100 Watt light bulbs for the whole 24 hours, but, that’s not very practical. You could blow dry your hair for 7 hours but that will give you split ends. Being realistic, a 3kW solar system could run a 55 gallon electric hot water heater for a day (with average household use). If it is not too hot outside, it could keep one room cool all day with a 9,000 BTU window air conditioner. If you have an average electric car, 3kW of solar would generate enough energy for you do drive about 40 miles. But, keep in mind it could only do one of these things, if you want to do all of them, you are going to need more than 3kW. So let’s go bigger and see what an 8kW solar system can do. It would have an average output of 33 kWh per day which would be enough to do three loads of laundry with a standard washing machine and electric clothes dryer, one load of dishes in the dishwasher and keep the hot water heater going through it all. If laundry and dishes doesn’t sound like fun an 8kW solar power system would generate enough to drive your electric car 75 miles then come home and cook a turkey in your electric oven. But, if it’s hot outside and your house is 4,000 square feet, the entire output of that 8kW system would be needed to run your central air conditioning. What about 20 kW of solar? With an average output of 83 kWh per day, it can power quite a lot. More than the average household would need.  You could keep the hot water heater running while you do two loads of laundry and a load of dishes, then drive 40 miles in your electric car, cook the turkey and run the dishwasher again all while your 4,000 square foot house is being air-conditioned and your kids are watching TV with all the lights on. But that might wear you out which is why the average residential solar power system is not quite this big. The purpose of this article is to...

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