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shout out to michael raines.

Have you seen The Colony on discovery channel? If you haven’t you got to check it out! The reality show is a unique experiment that puts 10 people and their skills to the test in a real-life exploration of what it would be like to have to rebuild after a devastating global event. My friend Michael Raines of SunPower Systems was part of the experiment. The second episode aired last night and the survivors had a major challenge recharging the battery bank they managed to salvage. The team was able to pull it off by making a wood gasifier out of the scrap parts to run a gas engine which recharged the battery bank. It was amazing how the team was able to improvise and be able to generate power with the little resources they had access to. Michael surprises everyone with his skills in building alternative energy. He is an inventor who fabricates furniture from both wood and metal, customizes cars and bikes, installs solar panels, and makes bows and arrows from scrap metal. Michael is also quite opinionated and is both a conspiracy theorist and pessimist. He feels he’ll survive in a catastrophe because he has vast knowledge on alternative energy and is a fighter. Do you think Mike will survive? check out the episodes...

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bring low cost solar power to the poor

Nicole Kuepper is on the path to solving the biggest barrier to going solar, cost. One of the primary reasons why solar cells require such a large upfront investment to get started is because of the intensive manufacturing process. The 23 year old scientist has found out a way to use simple household items to manufacturer solar cells on the fly using nail polish and an ink jet printer. Nicole’s technology uses the same theory of an ink jet printer to print solar cells that are not made from silicon onto a substrate which then can generate electricity. Currently the technology is in it’s infancy stages, although its great to see this type of development and innovative thinking in the solar power industry because its very much needed help solar power reach grid parity. What do you think about Nicole’s process of developing solar cells? In what other ways can the cost of solar panels be reduced for end...

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sacramento approves feed in tariff

Sacramento Municipal Utility recently approved a feed in tariff that pays people who install solar panels from 5 to 20 cents per kWh (kilowatt-hour) up to 20 years. Feed in tariffs are cash payments from the utility company for the power you contribute to the electric grid. Solar electric systems up to 5 megawatts can qualify to get paid from the Sacramento Municipal Utility. The feed in tariff is also available for home owners as long as they have not received the rebate administered by California for installing solar panels. A feed in tariff is the same financial policy that accelerated Germany into the #1 user of solar power in the world. Feed in tariffs are gaining popularity in the USA, since the first feed in tariff policy passed in Gainesville, FL. In regions where feed in tariffs are active many small solar farms on homes and businesses are setup to create extra income for the property owner. What do you think about feed in tariffs? Should the U.S. have a standardized feed in...

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Canadian Solar pledges to recycling solar panels

Many people worry that solar panels at the end of their life cycle, which is 30 to 50 years could cause an environmental problem when they need to be trashed. SolarWorld was the first company in the industry that created a recycling program for solar panels but recently a company called Canadian solar that manufacturers low cost solar panels in China has also pledged to recycle old solar panels. Canadian Solar became a member of PV Cycle, an organization that promotes the voluntary take back and recycling of end of life solar panels. This is good to see more companies create policies towards the problem of what’s going to happen when all these solar panels being installed today need to be thrown away 30 years from now. Do you think it’s important that solar panel manufacturers have a policy towards recycling solar...

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santa moncia forces solar panels to the back of the bus

Santa Monica is making it more difficult for citizens of their city to go solar all of a sudden. A city known to be friendly to solar panels have all of a sudden changed their tune by introducing a city ordinance that would require solar panels to be installed on the least visible area. According to the city council document the pending city ordinance states: A critical aspect in evaluating where to install photovoltaic systems, especially on an existing building, is the performance of the system. However, there is no reason that the solar installation professional should not also consider aesthetic aspects when designing a system. To address this concern while retaining a ministerial review process, the proposed ordinance would require solar equipment to be installed in the location that is least visible from the street, with the provision that energy performance is not significantly reduced or the cost of the solar system is not significantly increased compared to a location that is more visible from the street. The new city ordinance was introduced on June 30th but still needs to go through a second hearing before it goes live. The city of Santa Monica claims that by requiring citizens to install solar panels on the least visible location, it would help the city streamline the permitting process, what a bunch of baloney! If anyone from the city of Santa Monica is reading this blog post, especially a city official. What I want you to know is that by forcing citizens to install solar panels in the least visible location the city is BREAKING THE LAW. According to California’s Solar Rights Act It’s illegal for any city to create unreasonable barriers to the installation of solar energy systems, including, but not limited to, design review for aesthetic purposes. The only reason the city can block you from installing solar panels in the area you prefer is if the solar panels pose a public health concern. check out the paper below highlighting real case studies of the California Solar Rights...

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products at Intersolar 2009, day two.

Day two at Intersolar 2009 was action packed. I had a really busy day but managed to get you’ll some shots of some really cool products right from the tradeshow floor. A “green” solar panel Symphony Energy has released the first “green” polycrystalline solar panel. Typically solar panels have either a blue or black color to them, although Symphony decided to change up the color for aesthetic reasons. Walking around the trade show floor, I noticed all the solar panels started to look the same. By changing the color of the polycrystalline to green the company made their product standout. Their putting the words “going green” in their product literally. What do you think about green solar panels? Would you put these on your roof? Solar panel security alarm I wrote about Gridlock Solar Security a few days ago, today I got to meet them in person to talk about their advanced solar panel security device. Similar to a burglar alarm, once the alarm has been triggered the unit not only flashes and sends out an annoying siren but contacts the police and dials telephone numbers that you can program the unit with. This is one of the most unique products I saw at the show because it really focuses on reducing a big problem in the industry, solar panel theft. produce electricity and heat water The limitations of solar panels today is there are two different types of systems. photovoltaics generate electricity while solar thermal heat water. What if you can have one system that can both produce electricity and provide you with your hot water needs? PVTherm is doing just that, they’ve created a solar panel that heats water and produces power with the same solar panel! You can maximize surface area by having one system that take cares of two needs. Monster solar panel, ahhhhh! Typically polycrystalline solar panels that are on rooftops are a couple hundred watts but this monster solar panel from Best Solar is 370 watts with a huge footprint. So massive it would be impossible for a couple people to carry this up to a roof. You would need a crane to get this solar panel installed. We asked the Best Solar representative what type of applications this large of a solar panel would be used for and he said that these solar panels are made for utility scale projects since these monster solar panels produce a lot of power and make it more difficult to steal. Intersolar 2009 has been a great trade show so far, we’ve seen a lot of the same but there has been a handful of unique...

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