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Canadian Solar Inc – From Icy Paths to Solar Panels
Mar17

Canadian Solar Inc – From Icy Paths to Solar Panels

Foreward: As a leading retailer for solar products and kits, we’re proud to provide access to the industry’s top manufacturers. But with so many companies, there’s of course, the subtle, but key distinctions between companies, their products, and the people who make them. By shining light on these differences and sharing their stories, we’re aiming to provide a more clear picture to help in your decision making. Canadian Solar Inc., at a Glance Canadian Solar Inc. is one of the largest solar manufacturers in the world. Their story combines global reach and world class financing, expressed through the hard work and humble beginnings of founder and CEO, Dr. Shawn Qu. They maintain their space as leaders in the industry by driving product innovation and in-house R&D; and in 13 years since their founding, they have elevated themselves as a leading company in the solar industry. From Icy Walkways to Sun-Powered Panels Canadian Solar Inc. was founded in 2001 by Dr. Shawn Qu. Qu. As a serial academic/entrepreneur, he received his Bachelor of Science in applied physics from China’s most prestigious school, Tsinghua University. He later graduated with a Masters of Science in physics from the University of Manitoba and went onward to receive his Ph.D in material sciences from the University of Toronto. In an insightful 2010 interview, Dr. Qu recalls the “cold, cold, Winnpeg winter,” as he walked from class to class on icy campus walkways. His story sets an interesting backdrop: The basic beginnings of what would ultimately become the world’s leading solar company. Before founding Canadian Solar Inc., Dr. Qu worked at Ontario Power Generation as a research scientist, then moved into product engineering, business development, and strategy at Automation Tooling Systems, Inc. Here, he was led into the solar industry with Photowatt International S.A. Eventually, he returned to his alma mater Tsinghua University as a visiting professor in 2011. He currently runs Canadian Solar Inc. as CEO and chairman of CSI’s board of directors –  alongside an esteemed lineup of accomplished professionals in corporate finance, law, and nanotechnologies. Leading the Industry Dr. Qu’s multi-discipline background reflects itself within the company’s products and services. They provide a huge range of solar applications (cells, modules, wafers, ingots, panels, etc.) across different verticals and scales (from consumer level to huge solar farm contracts). Their operations are spread across 13 countries worldwide and in more recent news, they were announced as the Nasdaq’s second-best performer with a 687% surge by Q4 of 2013 (hovering around $30/share). As of 2014, their value has grown (once again) by an astounding ~25% to an average of $40 a share with market value...

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What’s wrong with solar permitting?  Q&A with Deep Patel, CEO of GoGreenSolar.com
Mar04

What’s wrong with solar permitting? Q&A with Deep Patel, CEO of GoGreenSolar.com

Experience any roadblocks while trying to pull a permit for a photovoltaic (PV) system in your city?   Paying too much?  You’re not alone.  Getting your PV system a permit can be a daunting task for both customers and installers. According to report by Clean Power Finance, about 23% of PV installations cost more than expected.   More than a third of solar installers actually avoid working with certain Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) because of their solar permitting processes. What’s wrong with these permitting processes and what can we do to fix it?  What’s being done right now? No standardized permitting process or fees have been set among AHJs, or the entities that have the power to determine and enforce code requirements for PV systems.  I’m catching up with GoGreensolar.com CEO Deep Patel to touch on some of these issues. From a solar contractor’s perspective, how do varying permitting procedures affect your business? It makes it more difficult to generate a proposal.  There really is not a cookie cutter solution, so unfortunately we can’t just generate proposal on the spot.  It often takes weeks because we have to call the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), leave messages, and wait for them to call us back. So when you’re trying to get a proposal out, it often takes up your time.  This increases the wait-time for customers and often drives up the soft costs of solar.  Would you say that this cost is passed along to consumers? Yes, proposals currently have to account for this unpredictability. When you’re running a business with that kind of uncertainty, you have to pad the proposal in case of any unexpected fees or codes changes. In an attempt to bring down the time and soft-costs that come with this inconsistent permitting process, the DOE’s Sunshot supported Clean Power Finance’s efforts to develop a National Solar Permitting Database.  The goal is to provide solar professionals a platform to give testimonials about different AHJs and coach each other through these permitting processes.  I guess you could say it’s like Yelp for solar contractors to review AHJs. A National Database can help solar contractors work more efficiently, but is it not placing a Band-Aid on a bullet wound?  Given that the DOE already has a standardized set of permitting policies known (solar ABCs), is it even fair that the burden of navigating these arduous permitting processes is imposed on those who are installing solar electric systems?  The problem is that the DOE doesn’t have the jurisdiction here.  The DOE can’t force the cities to follow a standardized permitting process, but they can make recommendations and city governments can choose to adopt them.  Meanwhile,...

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3 Ways Enphase M215 Just Got Better
Jan27

3 Ways Enphase M215 Just Got Better

Enphase Energy just revealed some key improvements to the Enphase M215, 215 Watt microinverter and their system as a whole. Take a look at the new features… 1. Enphase M215 with Integrated Ground Photovoltaic (PV) systems in North America have normally required bonding each microinverter together with continuous copper grounding wire.  The purpose of this standard is to prevent fires, protect workers from shocks, and comply with National Electrical Code (NEC).  Some changes to NEC have allowed Enphase to incorporate integrated (DC isolated) ground technology into their 4th generation line, which now includes the M215. Because the DC circuit is isolated and insulated from the ground, you can now safely install Enphase M215 microinverters without a Grounding Electrode Conductor (GEC) connected to each microinverter. Coming soon… the 4th generation M215. Download the new M215 Microinverter data sheet (PDF). As you can see in the image above, the M215 now has a flat lid with no grounding lug. Yes, this product meets U.S. National Electrical Code (NEC) requirements Ungrounded Photovoltaic (PV) Power Systems and it’s actually a safer product. Integrated Ground(IG) technology simplifies this cumbersome installation process, reducing materials and labor costs.  Installers and D.I.Y. customers already prefer to use Enphase for residential systems because of its straightforward installation.  The new M215 further simplifies the process because there’s no need to run copper wire between each microinverter. Sound familiar?  Last year, Enphase released their fourth generation model, the Enphase M250, which also features this new IG technology.  The Enphase M520, however, is optimized for solar panels all the way up to 300 Watts. The Enphase M215 is compatible with modules up to 270W, a lower wattage range where consumers are finding the best dollar per Watt on solar panels.  So basically, Enphase put all the benefits of the M250 into the M215. Oh yeah, the new Enphase M215 also has a CEC efficiency rating of 96.5% compared with the previous version’s 96%. For more information on the new M215’s integrated grounding feature, please see Enphase’s M215 white paper. 2.  Wi-Fi option for the Envoy Communications Gateway Now Available! The Envoy Communications Gateway is the hub connects your Enphase microinverter system to Enlighten, Enphase’s web-based monitoring software for PV systems. Instead of running an Ethernet cable from the Envoy hardware into a broadband router, you can now connect the Envoy Communications Gateway with the new wi-fi option (pictured top right). The new Wi-fi option simplifies connectivity and makes finding a location for the Envoy way easier. Connect up to 600 microinverters to one Envoy.   3. MyEnlighten & Enlighten Manager Software Customers who use the Enphase Envoy to monitor their systems get...

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Will solar work in your state? (Infographic)
Jan17

Will solar work in your state? (Infographic)

Do photovoltaics(PV) really work outside of California?   When first looking into solar, it seems only natural to assume that solar panels will work best in hot areas. Contrary to this intuition, solar panels perform best in cool environments.   You’ll get the maximum yield from your PV system when direct sunlight is hitting your array, but solar panels continue to generate electricity with ambient sunlight on cloudy days. Tip: monocrystalline solar panels are known to be more efficient in low-light conditions than polycrystalline solar panels. Rain can also rinse off “soiling,” or the dirt and dust that builds up on solar panels, making them operate more efficiently. Some areas also have rewarding “net metering” policies that credit you for the the energy your PV system generates on those clear days.  It’s fed into the electricity grid and later used to offset your energy consumption (kWh) on cloudy days or at night when you’re drawing from the utility grid.   To learn more about grid-tied PV systems, read Grid-Tied and Off-Grid Solar 101. With the installed price of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems declining, investing in clean energy is more cost-effective than ever.  Solar is even saving homeowners money in cloudier cities like Seattle and Portland. Solar is steadily appearing on more rooftops throughout the country- which U.S. cities have you noticed more PV systems being installed?...

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Surface area needed to power the world with solar?
Dec30

Surface area needed to power the world with solar?

How much surface area would be needed to power the whole world with solar panels? 496,805 Square kilometers or 191,817.483 square miles Just to give you an idea of what this would actually look like, take a look at the image below. This info-graphic shows the cumulative surface area required to power the entire planet with solar in 2030 (678 quadrillion BTU), given that solar panels will have 20% operating efficiencies.  This includes all electrical consumption, down to machinery and...

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Summer vs. Winter: Energy Consumption Infographic
Aug30
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