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3 Big Benefits of Microgrids
Nov11

3 Big Benefits of Microgrids

Wildfire season in Southern California has become synonymous with rolling blackouts for homes relying on grid power, shinning the spotlight on microgrids as one of the best solutions to providing the state with its energy needs and spurring a significant increase in inquiries about solar + storage.  Solar microgrids work as a localized source of energy generation, which is connected to a more extensive energy network, but can disconnect, or “island off,” from the system.  While numerous benefits come with microgrids, we’ve condensed it down to the top three reasons they rock. 1. COST Installing an energy storage solution and microgrid along with PV panels allows a solar system to store energy during peak sunlight hours and ration it for when power companies increase the time of use rates for electricity. Not paying a premium for electricity can save homeowners up to $1000 a year or more.  The development of better and more affordable batteries, coupled with lower-priced solar systems and government subsidies, makes the homeowner’s cost of going solar competitive with paying for energy generated by a coal or nuclear power plant at a centralized location.  Because solar microgrids allow people to work as a decentralized network, producing power close to its point of use, they cut down on the need for long-distance infrastructure. Reducing the need to build new transmission towers, power poles, transformers, and power lines will allow utility companies to improve the infrastructure they already have. On a macro scale, the cost of utility-scale solar has dropped to around $36 per megawatt-hour, which is cheaper than the MWh cost of building new power plants and equivalent with the cost of running existing ones.  2. AGILE ENERGY SOLUTION TO CALIFORNIA’S BLACKOUTS AND FIRES Recently PG&E chief executive, Bill Johnson, said it could take a decade for the company to improve its electrical system enough to reduce the number of customer blackouts. California’s Energy Commission can read the writing on the wall and has invested over $100 million in microgrid projects.  Solar microgrids provide homeowners with enough backup power generated from the sun to continue with their lives as usual in the ever more frequent instances when energy suppliers such as PG&E and SCE need to shut down.  The change would be beneficial for utility companies, too. Currently, in California, such companies are caught between a rock and a hard place. If a high wind is forecasted, companies are incentivized to be overly cautious and shut off power to millions of people so that downed lines won’t cause another wildfire. But leaving paying customers in the dark is not a viable long-term solution. Smaller microgrids can be...

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GoGreenSolar Solves the Frustrations of DIY Solar
Oct30

GoGreenSolar Solves the Frustrations of DIY Solar

Many aspects of a solar project can be frustrating, which is why contractors charge so much for a turnkey solar installation. But, if you are smart and get your system from GoGreenSolar, you can avoid the cost of the contractor and keep clear of the most common issues of a do it yourself solar project. With solar, the headaches start long before you begin installing. First, you have to decide how big of a system to get. This means evaluating your roof and understanding your local fire code rules about setbacks and walkways. You will also have to determine how much solar your existing main service panel can accommodate and what your options are to modify it to so you can install more. Finally, you have to figure out what the system size will do for you in terms of saving money on your electric bill. This means understanding your current electric rate and what options you will have for your rate after installing the solar. Fortunately, the experts at GoGreenSolar can walk you through this whole process. Once you have decided on a system size, you still have to choose what equipment to get. With dozens of brands of solar panels, multiple inverter types and all sorts of different racking options this can be a bit daunting. Researching it yourself could take months and every manufacturer says their product is the best so if you read every brochure available, you will even more confused than when you started. You definitely want help from someone with experience who can tell you what will work best for your individual situation and make sure you get a system where all the components are compatible and nothing important is missing. Now you’ve finally selected all your equipment, but you still have to pull a permit before you can start installing anything. Solar is very complex and building departments expect a lot more than a few hand drawn sketches and some specification sheets. A typical solar permit (like the one you will get from GoGreenSolar) is 10-15 pages with all the notes, calculations and details that will get your permit approved easily. As a bonus, this permit paperwork will also be a guide for your installation as it includes helpful things like your wire and conduit sizing so you will save all the time of trying to figure that out. But wait, you’re not done with the paperwork yet. You also have to apply for “net metering” with your local electric company. This is rarely a simple process and the timing of the submittal is different depending on which electric company you are...

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Should You Go Off Grid?
Oct22

Should You Go Off Grid?

Let’s face it, most of us have no choice where we get our electricity from. The local electric company is your only option and when a company has no competition, they have no incentive to make you like them.  So customers often look at solar panels and get to thinking… can I go off the grid? Typically, off grid systems are only installed on homes built where the grid isn’t available. It is not uncommon for an electric company to quote $100,000 or more to bring power to a rural property that is being newly developed. So they want you to pay $100,000 to bring in the lines so that you can pay them ever month for electricity when $100,000 will buy you an absolutely amazing off-grid solar power system. If this is your situation, you should definitely go off grid.  But if you currently own a house that is connected to the grid, the answer is not that clear. Yes, we know you don’t like the electric company and nothing would make you happier than to divorce yourself from them permanently but let’s look at the options before jumping into that decision. First, the cost of a solar power system increases dramatically when it changes from grid-tie to off grid. In order to be completely independent from the electric company, you need to have a system that generates the maximum amount of power you may need even in during those months when the days are short and the sun is low in the sky. You also need batteries to store the solar energy produced during the day so you have power to get through the night. Even more batteries if you want to have enough stored energy to get through a rainy day when the solar is producing little to no power.  Also, you shouldn’t have solar be your only power source. People who live off the grid usually have a diesel or natural gas generator as backup. This is necessary because the amount of batteries needed to run a house through a whole week of cloudy/rainy weather would be ridiculously expensive and take a up too much space. The generator may also be needed to cover your needs when a piece of equipment like an inverter or charge controller needs to be serviced. So you have to add the cost of a generator to your already too expensive solar power system to comfortably disconnect yourself from the electric company. Example of a gas generator When you stay connected to the electric company, you can put the solar panels on the roof without needing the batteries. You can...

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California Homeowners Look to Solar Following Massive Power Shutoffs
Oct21

California Homeowners Look to Solar Following Massive Power Shutoffs

More Californians are looking to switch to solar after two of the state’s largest utility providers cut power to nearly a million of its customers with little to no warning on account of high winds — an incident which many experts warn will become more common.  “I suspect for the next few years these are going to occur,” said Severin Borenstein, faculty director of UC Berkeley’s Energy Institute to the LA Times. “No one involved in this thing thinks it was a one-time event.” The outages ranged from Humbolt to Ventura county and in some cases, lasted up to 72 hours.  Northern California was most heavily affected, with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) leaving an estimated 800,000 people without electricity.  Northern California was most heavily affected, with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) leaving an estimated 800,000 people without electricity.  “PG&E’s mismanagement of the power shutoffs experienced last week was unacceptable,” decried California Governor Gavin Newstrom following the event. “We will continue to hold PG&E accountable to make radical changes – prioritizing the safety of Californians and modernizing its equipment.” Likewise, Southern California Edison (SCE) shut the power off for nearly 30,000 of its customers.  Following last year’s deadly fire season, during which a PG&E caused fire destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people, California has given utility companies unilateral control for deciding when to shut off the power.  Legislators intended utilities to use the provision as a last resort. However, many worry the utility companies are being overly aggressive with outages since they will bear full liability for any blaze that occurs from their equipment.  “Californians should not pay the price for decades of PG&E’s greed and neglect,” Governor Newsom said, going so far as to suggest that PG&E give $100 to each of the hundreds of thousands of customers who experienced blackouts.  Rather than wait for legislators to resolve the issue or cross their fingers and hope that utility companies will solve it for themselves, October saw an uptick in Californian homeowners wanting to take their power supply into their own hands and switch to solar.  The trend comes nearing the end of 2019 when a lucrative 30 percent Federal Incentive Tax Credit for going solar is scheduled to be massively reduced for the next two years until it expires.  Realizing that such power outages due to increasingly arid weather and higher than normal seasonal winds will become an annual occurrence, the homeowners switching to solar are hoping to get ahead of the problem.  “Utility companies might randomly shut down the grid, but if you have solar panels, inverters, and batteries to store the excesses energy, you...

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Sizing Your Solar Power System
Oct10

Sizing Your Solar Power System

You know you want to install solar, but how much solar do you want to install? There are many factors to consider when making decisions about system size. The system size will be dependent on how much energy you want to generate. If you are doing a grid-tied system, you will start by looking at your electric bills. You should add up the last 12 months of electric bills so you have your annual usage. If you only use one month or one season, you can end up way off because your electric needs can change dramatically from summer to winter.  Sample Electric Bill – look for the kWh! Once you know your annual usage, you should ask yourself some questions. If you have solar on your roof and you’re no longer paying crazy high prices for every kilowatt hour (kwh), what might you do differently? Would you turn the air conditioning setting down a couple of degrees so you never break a sweat? Would you buy an electric car? Do you have any other plans like installing a swimming pool? If you answered yes, then you will want to add some kwh to your current usage to account for the additional air conditioning run time, the electric car, the swimming pool or whatever else you might dream up that will use extra electricity.  The next big question is how much of this projected energy usage do you want the solar to offset. This will depend on your electric rates and how your electric provider deals with net metering. If your local utility company gives you full retail credit for every kwh that you feed into their system then you should consider a system that generates close to 100% of your projected usage. Going over 100% is generally not beneficial as most utilities will not pay much for the excess power generated over the course of a year.  Sample electric bill before and after solar If you are sizing an off-grid system, you will have to do a little more work to get your projected usage.  You will need to make a list of everything that will use electricity. Then you have to determine how many watts each of those items will use and how many hours you plan to run them. You can multiply the watts by the hours to get watt hours. Divide the watt hours by 1,000 and that will give you the kilowatt hours (kwh). Now you know what you need to generate but that still doesn’t exactly tell you what size system to install.  Because there are so many factors (like location, weather and...

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How Solar Works
Oct09

How Solar Works

If you look at the roofs around you, you will see that more and more people are installing solar but what is it all about and how does it work? The point of installing solar is to save money, but that is the end result and we should start this story at the beginning.  The solar panels are officially called photovoltaic modules. Photovoltaic is really hard to say, so most people call them PV modules or just go with the commonly accepted and less technical name “solar panels”. The solar panels should be installed at a good angle to the sun which is generally going to be south. East or west also works with west having an advantage of producing more energy in the afternoons which is desirable if you are on a Time-of-Use electric rate (you can see our other articles for more details on that). Most people install the solar panels on the roof but if you have the space, you can install them on a ground-mount rack.  Roof vs ground mounted solar When the sun hits the solar panels, they produce DC electricity. When you buy the solar panels, you will also want to get an inverter (or microinverters) to convert the DC power to AC power. In a Grid-tied system (which is the kind you want for your house unless you are not hooked up to the electric company), that inverter (or microinverters) will be connected to the main service panel of your house.  The power from the solar will flow to all the lights and appliances in the house and any excess power that you don’t use will flow out to the grid, spinning your meter backwards. Your electric company will give you credits for that energy that you give them and apply those credits to the energy that you use at night when the solar isn’t producing.  The amount of credit that you get for the energy you feed into the grid depends on your utility company. In some places customers get full credit, so for every kilowatt hour (kwh) you feed in, you get a kwh back later. In other places, you get less than full credit, but it is still a worthwhile amount. In the end, no matter where you are, every solar panel will lower your electric bill a little bit more which is why solar is a great investment. But, there is a limit to the savings. You can only save the amount of your electric bill. Except for very unusual circumstances, you will not be paid more than a few pennies, if anything, for excess energy generated over...

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