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Installing Solar? Your State Might Require This Certification If You Want Incentives
Mar04

Installing Solar? Your State Might Require This Certification If You Want Incentives

When it comes to home solar installations, the number of certifications, acronyms, and obscure bills bombarding your research can be enough to cause the sort of migraine you might get from staring too long at the sun. But after slogging through all that work of shopping for the just the right panels, inverters, and a battery storage solution, it would be a shame to miss out on state rebates and incentives because you didn’t have someone involved on your project with this one, crucial, certification: North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Founded in 2002 as a non-profit, this accreditation was established as an industry stamp of approval to let homeowners know which installers have the specialized knowledge and expertise to install a solar system correctly. The requirements to attain a NABCEP are so rigorous that it quickly became the industry gold standard. It wasn’t long before some states made it a preferred or mandatory for a contractor with this certification to be involved in solar systems installations to be eligible for incentive programs. “What most of these states are looking for is that person with a NABCEP-cert is engaged somewhere along the process to look at the equipment and say whether it’s legit or not,” explained Go Green Solar’s NABCEP Certified Senior Design Engineer Dave Donaldson. “If a state is going to pay you for the solar energy you’re generating they want to make sure it’s been installed or reviewed by someone that knows what they’re doing.” Go Green Solar’s NABCEP-certified Senior Engineer Dave Donaldson (purple shirt) directing city of Los Angeles workers how to mount the solar panel In Utah the NABCEP-certification is a prerequisite to qualify for a state solar contractor license and Austin, Texas won’t allow electricians to build a grid-tied system without it. Minnesota, Maine, and Wisconsin are among the states that require a NABCEP-certified professional to install PV solar systems to make it eligible for rebates. And still, other states including California, Massachusetts, and Delaware, take a less stringent approach “recommending” PV solar systems are installed by a professional with NABCEP certifications making permits and rebates much easier to attain. For its part, NABCEP does not encourage or discourage state regulatory efforts. The credentials, which much be renewed every three years, are voluntary and are intended to act a professional differentiator in the same way a realtor that sells houses is able to become a broker after passing his/her license exam. An opinion blog post published by NABCEP argues why the organization feels its certifications should not become mandatory as there might not be enough certified professionals in America to keep up...

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QCell Q.Peak DUO-G5 Advantage
Jan03

QCell Q.Peak DUO-G5 Advantage

Everyone knows solar panels are a good idea but are there certain ones that are a better idea than others? The answer is a resounding yes. Let’s take a look at the new QCell Q.Peak DUO-G5 as an example of a superior and award winning PV module. There are many innovations that have gone into improving the power output of the Q.PEAK DUO-G5 solar panels.  One is that the solar cells are interconnected with wires instead of flat ribbons on cells. These wires take up less surface area allowing the sunlight to hit more of the cell area. The innovative design also allows light reflected off the wires to be redirected back onto the module surface. This alone increases power production by 2.5%. Another design advantage was QCell’s choice to use six busbars on each cell. This decreases the space between busbars which means that the individual electrons have a shorter path to the busbar, decreasing losses to resistance. The extra busbars also allow better electron flow as there are more busbars to carry them. The six busbars result in a 1% increase in power production. Half-size solar cells in the Q.PEAK DUO G5 module increase power production by 3% by reducing the current which reduces the resistive losses within the cells. The half cell design also increases stability against pressure on the module, reducing the risk of the cell cracking. The chance of cracking is further reduced by the way the cells are cut with a smoother edge than typical solar cells. Plus, with the if a cell does crack, the six busbars mentioned above help mitigate the effects of the cracks causing resistive losses. Creating a much more stable design over all. This more stable design means a lower degradation rate of only .054% annually. QCell offers the guarantee of at least 85% production after 25 years on these innovative solar panels. The DUO-G5 PV modules are also different in their cell interconnection design. The upper and lower sections of the modules are connected in parallel instead of series. This results in higher power production when the module is partially shaded because the unshaded half of the module can still perform at 100%. Other technology that increases the performance of these solar panels is the Anti PID technology that reduces losses in wet climates. Hot-spot Protect (HSP) eliminates cells that have a high risk of creating hot spots from the production line keeping the modules hot spot free. As a matter of fact, all the solar cells on the production line are tracked with laser markings that are part of QCell’s TRA.Q traceable quality system. Anti LID...

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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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Does Tilting Solar Panels Make Sense?
Oct08

Does Tilting Solar Panels Make Sense?

A solar power system will generate the most energy if you optimize the orientation of the solar panels. But, does that mean it worth it to tilt the solar panels on the roof? First, let’s talk about the best orientation for solar panels. In the northern hemisphere, you will get the best annual energy output if your solar panels are facing due south at a tilt angle just under your latitude. This means if you are in the southern part of the US at a latitude of 35, your system will give you the most kilowatt hours (kwh) if you face the panels south and tilt them at about 33 or 34 degrees from horizontal. Most roofs do not provide this ideal orientation. Your roof might south but the pitch is only 17 degrees. Your roof might not face south at all. It could also just be flat. Should you add hardware to tilt your solar panels to achieve that optimal production? Adding tilt legs to the solar racking will require more racking equipment and more labor to install it. Wind uplift loads are also a factor. When the solar panels are tilted, they are like a sail on your roof and more roof attachments would be required to ensure the solar panels stay put in gusty winds. All of this means higher upfront costs. Another consideration is that if the solar panels are tilted, the rows must be spread apart to avoid the solar panels in the front row shading the solar panels in the row behind it. Last but not least, there is the aesthetic factor. The purpose of solar is to save money not look pretty, but your system still shouldn’t be an eyesore. For the roof that is pitched at 17 degrees to the south, tilting the panels will generally not pay off. It would probably only gain about 5% annual output which will generally not be worth the added cost of the tilt hardware, extra roof attachments and labor. This is especially true if you are on a “time of use” or TOU electric rate pay more per kwh in the summer. If your solar panels are tilted at the lower 17 degree angle, they will actually produce more in the summer when the sun is higher in the sky to hit the lower tilted panels at a better angle. So, while you lose a little kwh over the period of the year, you will be generating more in the summer when kwh are worth more. Also, imagine for a moment how those tilted solar panels would look on your roof. Your neighbors would...

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What Solar Can and Can’t Do
Sep25

What Solar Can and Can’t Do

People have a lot of misconceptions about solar, often due to misleading marketing tactics by solar companies. If you are going solar, you should know the facts so you have realistic expectations. Solar can save you money. A standard grid-tied system feeds energy to your house so you don’t have to buy as much electricity from the electric company. But this is generally where it stops. Solar will not make extra money for you. Unless you are lucky enough to live in a place where you can sell Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), you are limited to saving what you normally spend on electricity. If you generate most of the electricity you use, you can reduce your electric bill to almost nothing. But if you generate more electricity than you use, you will get little or nothing back from the electric company for the excess kilowatt hours.   Solar can be used to provide backup power during a power outage, but this functionality typically costs extra and/or is very limited. The least expensive way to get back up power from solar is to use an SMA inverter that can be installed with a special power outlet that works during power outages. The limitations are that it only provides power when the sun is out and even then, it is only 1800 watts. So, if the power goes out at night or during a thunderstorm, that outlet won’t be much help until you have sun again. But, once you have sun, you will be able to power small devices, charge your phone or laptop and possibly even run your refrigerator. Beyond that special outlet, solar backup systems with batteries are available but they are pricey. They generally start around $7,000 for a small one. The more appliances you want to run during the power outage, the more the system will cost. It is usually cheaper and less limiting to purchase a backup generator that runs on diesel or propane. Solar can be used to run remote devices like well pumps and signal repeating towers. These systems can be set up two different ways. One way is to install solar directly to the device and when the sun is out, the device will work, when it is cloudy or dark, the device will not work. The other way is to install the solar with a battery system that stores the power when the sun is out so you can run the device any time. These types of systems are great options to run something that is too far away from the power grid. But, if everything you want to run is near...

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Chinese Vs American Solar Panels
Sep17

Chinese Vs American Solar Panels

Yes, you should buy solar panels, but… Should you buy solar panels that are made in America or solar panels that are made in China? We live in a modern world that operates on a global level. Things are made all over the world and solar panels are no exception to this. Even if a solar panel is labeled and marketed as “Made in the USA” it is very likely that the solar cells and/or other parts of the panel were made overseas. All the manufacturer must do for that “USA” label is assemble the foreign parts here in America. There are exceptions to this, but most solar cells are made in Asian countries, even in those panels that are assembled in the US. Does being made in Asia automatically mean the solar cell is of lesser quality. No, it doesn’t. The truth is that there are poor quality products being made in every country. History has shown that even some solar panels that were fully manufactured in the United States have had issues. But, fear not, there are also high quality products being made in every country.  There are top tier Chinese panels made by public companies with world class factories and clean rooms like Trina, Canadian Solar and JA Solar. Just as there are great solar panels made or assembled in America like Sunspark, SolarWorld and Gigawatt. Finding quality solar panels is more about brand than country of origin. We have a magic word we use in the solar industry, “bankability”. When a bank decides to offer leases on solar equipment, they have a lot at stake. They will end up owning hundreds if not thousands of systems, all with contracts that guarantee the end user a certain amount of production for up to 20 years. If the solar panels in these systems fail on a large scale, it will cost the bank a lot of money. So, before investing in a particular solar brand, the bank will do everything they can to ensure they are getting a quality, “bankable” product. This assurance includes third party engineering assessments of factories and products as well as evaluation of the manufacturing company’s longevity and ability to honor warranties in the long term. The banks have a lot of resources to put into these bankability studies. As an individual consumer, all you have to do is look at what brands the banks have chosen and use those on your own projects. There is also the consideration of price. Researching Chinese solar panels will bring up many news articles about tariffs being passed and the price hikes they may cause. In the end...

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