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solar panels + grid alternatives = fun

I had a great weekend volunteering for GRID Alternatives to install solar panels for a low income family in Lynwood, CA. For those of you who don’t know GRID Alternatives, they’re a non-profit who’s on a mission to empower communities in need by providing renewable energy and energy efficiency services, equipment and training. Since 2001, GRID Alternatives has been working to bring the power of solar electricity and energy efficiency to low-income homeowners, and to provide community members with training and hands-on experience with renewable energy technologies. GRID Alternatives believes making energy choices that are good for the environment can go hand-in-hand with improving the lives of those living in low-income communities. It took Anna and Alan, experienced Grid Alternatives staff and the team of volunteers two full days at to complete the installation of the 1.4 kW solar electric system which consisted of 7 Canadian Solar 200 watt (CS6PE) solar panels, a PVPowered 2000 watt (PVP2000) grid tie inverter and Pro Solar mounting hardware. The most difficult part of installing the solar panels over the detached garage was working on the concrete s-tile roof. These are very delicate type of roof tiles, walking on them without breaking them is impossible, it’s like walking on egg shells. It took us extra time to replace all the roofing s-tile shingles that were damaged in the process. The hot Southern California climate did not spare us over the weekend, during the afternoon the s-tiles shingles became extremely hot making it even more difficult and uncomfortable to get the mounting hardware installed. Before the 6 inch standoffs were installed and sealed with silicon, the fast jacks needed to be attached to the rafters of the detached garage. Also each penetrations needed flashing to ensure they are water tight. Locating the rafters in a building and making sure you’re drilling into them is a challenging part of installing solar panels. Once the standoffs were in place the roof team was ready for the rails which were assembled on the ground. We had to cut the Pro Solar Rails to size and have them prepared for the roof team to secure to the stand offs. There are many components involved with putting the rails together, which could be confusing if you don’t have all your parts organized. After the rails were passed on from the ground to the roof, they were immediately attached to the standoffs. Once we got the rails secured to the standoffs, it was time to get the solar panels mounted on top of the rails. It was easier to get the solar panels mounted to the rails because we had...

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SMA Sunny Portal goes mobile

Customers are getting used to monitoring the performance of their solar electric system with SMA inverters and a webbox on their computer screens. But how about those people who live the on the go lifestyle that want to keep up to date of how much electricity their solar panels are producing? If you have a SMA SunnyBoy Inverter with a webbox, your inverter’s data is uploaded to the SunnyPortal via the Internet. Recently, SMA launched their “mobile friendly” version of the SunnyPortal that you can access from your cell phone’s web browser. I think this is great offering that SMA brings to their table because it increases the customer experience of owning a solar electric system by being connected to the system anytime the owner wishes. Also people are more willing to talk about their system to others if they can bring the data with them and show other customers. Would you check on your solar panels from your cell...

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Suntech’s pluto tech breaks multicrystalline record

Recently the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Germany verified that the Chinese Solar Manufacturer, Suntech broke a world record for commerical grade multicrystalline solar cells. Suntech’s Pluto technology clocked in at an efficiency of 15.6% in laboratory conditions. The previous record for commerical grade multicrystalline solar cells was set 15 years ago by Sandia National Labs. According to Suntech, the Pluto technology is the primary driver behind the solar cell’s great performance and can be applied to both mono and polycrystalline solar cells. The company has already began shipping solar panels that feature Pluto technology as more solar panel manufacturers compete to have the most highly efficient solar panel on the market. What do you think about Suntech solar panels? Do you think Pluto technology will perform highly in real world...

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Carter’s solar panels at the Smithsonian

Back in 1979 the Jimmy Carter Administration created the “Solar America” initiative, aimed to help Americans go solar, the White House itself was retrofitted with solar panels that heat water. Fast forward to 1986, Reagan removed the perfectly working solar panels, I wonder why? In 1991 the solar panels once used to heat the water at the White House were sold to Unity College which used them to provide hot water to their college cafeteria until 2005, the point in which the solar hot water system reached its lifetime. Recently the The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History purchased the solar panel and have put them up for display. President Carter installing solar panels at the White House in 1979 serves as great symbolism of how the Carter Administration wanted to shape the energy future. What happened? Why did we go off track until...

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SMA offers greater support for 100 amp services

SMA is taking customer feedback and making proactive changes in their product line to serve customers even better. Recently the company modified their Sunyboy SB4000US inverter to be compatible with 100amp residential electric services. The current output on the SB4000US grid tie inverter has been reduced to 16 amps to comply with the NEC (national electric code) to provide more flexibility to installers to work on a 100 amp service. Most homes in the U.S. have at least a 200amp service, although many older homes are stuck with a 100 amp service which can be costly and time consuming to upgrade. Having a 100 amp service can create a barrier to install a solar array between 3 or 4 kilowatts. With the modifications made by SMA to the SB4000US grid tie inverter, customers on a 100 amp service now have greater options on the size of solar array they can install using a SMA inverters. The modified SB4000US inverters compatible with 100 amp services have to be special ordered since they are modified when the order has been...

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economic recovery act of 2009 helps you buy solar

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 passed earlier this year resulted in historic events for the solar power industry. But I noticed that many people out there are still not aware of the benefits. Today I want to highlight the key benefits this legislation has brought to people and organizations who choose to invest in solar panels. tax paying corporations now qualify for a 30% federal tax grant in lieu of a tax credit. A “tax grant” works similar to a rebate in which the U.S. Treasury Department will send a corporation 30% cash payment based off the final cost of the system. This is a limited time offer, only solar electric systems which commence installation before the end of 2010 will qualify. 50% bonus depreciation has been extended for corporations who install solar panels by the end of 2009 $2,000 tax credit cap has been eliminated for solar hot water systems, now solar thermal panels can qualify for the full 30% tax credit. There are many more provisions in the law that helps develop renewable energy technology, SEIA (solar energy industry association) has put together an executive summary that’s really helpful, check it out...

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