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Lead Acid Battery 101

Considering a off-grid or grid-tie with battery backup solar panel or wind power system? Well make sure the batteries you purchase are deep cycle. Lead Acid Batteries are common with renewable energy systems because their upfront cost is lower and they are available worldwide. There are many sizes and capacities of lead acid batteries to meet the needs of your solar panel system but the most important difference is to understand the difference between shallow cycle and deep cycle batteries. Shallow cycle batteries are not meant to be discharged more than 20%, otherwise the lifetime of the battery will be very short, therefore you will have to replace the battery very often and do not make a good choice for a solar power system. Deep cycle batteries on the other hand are designed to be discharged by as much as 80% of their rated capacity, therefore they are a cost effective fit for a solar panel system because they will last much longer then your typical shallow cycle battery. Letting any type of lead acid battery remained fully discharged for days at a time can permanently damage the battery and can cause a loss of charging capacity. Therefore if you are considering a system with batteries, be prepared to maintain and keep an eye on the battery bank to make sure its being charged. With proper care deep cycle lead acid batteries will have a long service life and will be compatible with most power generation systems such as solar panels or wind turbines although with poor treatment and lack of maintenance the battery life will be very short. Many customers who have electric service want to go “off-grid” but don’t really understand what they are getting themselves into when working with batteries. Off-grid solar and wind power systems should be used in areas where there is no access to electric service. If you currently have electrical service at your home or small business you are better off purchasing a grid tie solar power system or a grid tie wind turbine. Grid-connected systems often break even faster and require less maintenance because these types of systems require no batteries. Any extra energy produced is stored right into the gird and the utility gives you credit for future use of that electricity. Potentially you can develop a system that can offset 100% of your yearly electrical usage, basically zero out the amount you are charged for electricity consumption. Connecting your system to the utility gird is called “Net-Metering”. If your considering a small battery for backup power, you might want to consider the Xantrex Xpower 1500, which deep cycle battery...

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Solar panel nanocoating increases efficiency by 30 percent.

Typical silicon solar panels you see on the market today soak up two thirds of the sunlight that hits the solar panel. Researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute developed a coating that can help solar panels soak up more then 96% of the sunlight that hits the panel. Traditionally solar panels perform the best when the sunlight is directly shining on them, although with the development of the coating, it allows a solar panel to collect energy from all angels, thus improving the efficiency significantly. The nanocoating pictured above overcomes two major obstacles blocking the progress and wider use of solar power. One, the coating increases the amount of sunlight captured by solar panels and two, allows those panel with the special coating to absorb the entire spectrum of sunlight from any angle, regardless of the sun’s position. The key aspect of the nanocoating is that it creates an anti reflective effective that helps solar panels soak up more sun. The amazing aspect of this research is that since the nanocoating can help solar panels collect energy from any angles, this breakthrough has the potential to eliminate solar trackers which main purpose is to keep the solar panel pitch in line with the path of the sun. The nanocoating is still in the research & development stage, at this time there is no road maps for commercial development of this technology, so don’t expect this new coating on the solar panels on the market soon. Although we are glad to see these types of game changing technologies being funded and tested to hit the market in the near...

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OCS Energy automates solar panel cleaning

We recently talked about why its important for anyone who owns a solar photovoltaic system to keep the panels clean, we even recommended a product called PowerBoost Solar Panel Cleaner, which is great for solar panels on a home or small business. But how about the large commercial or industrial fields in which hundreds or thousands of solar panels are installed. Until today, large scale solar array owners were helpless, OCS Energy has created an interesting product called the SolarWash, which is the first commercial automated photovoltaic (PV) cleaning system. The first of its kind product increases energy output and shortens the return on investment of investments in large solar power systems according to the company. The SolarWash unit attaches directly to the solar panel and is controlled by a microprocessor giving the solar power system operator the ability to automatically clean the entire solar array with a push of a button! The complete solar panel cleaning system includes maintenance free water nozzles, web based software interface, and a programmable logic controller. This type of automation not only helps solar become a more attractive for large scale system deployments, but shows how much room for innovation there is in the industry. As more companies start developing add-on products to improve the efficiency will help push solar power mainstream. Now I wonder how long it will take until a company develops a similar system for residential and small commercial solar power installations. Isn’t this such a simple, innovative yet effective product? please...

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Suniva’s 20% Efficent Solar Cell

Suniva, a newer entrant in the photovoltaic solar cell market claims its Research & Development team has created a solar cell that is capable of 20% efficiency using a simple cell design and screen printing technologies. The company backs up their claim by having their technology verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). According to Suniva’s Founder & CTO, the company increase conversion efficiency while reducing processing time and achieving low costs. Suniva, manufacturers and markets its high efficiency solar cells under the ARTisun brand name which focuses on an intersection between high effiecncey and low cost. What does this mean to you? The purpose of this blog is to first understand how important solar cell technology is the overall adoption rate of solar photovoltaic technology, as the efficiencies increase and costs decrease, that means more affordable solar panels that break even quicker, this trend in technology will eventually be responsible for mass adoption of solar panels. Typically a group of solar cells make up a solar panel (module), check out my previous post titled, “Solar Arrays Explained” to understand how individual solars cells become a solar...

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SMA Sunny Webbox – Visualize your performance

Typically once a solar power system owner installs solar panels, they get enjoyment of seeing their meter spin backwards. Although more system owners these days want more detailed output of how the solar power systems are performing. Customers who have purchased a SMA grid tie inverter have an easy option to add detailed performance monitoring through an add on device called the SMA Sunny Webbox. The Sunny Webbox can interface with up to 50 SMA grid tie inverters which connects to the internet through your router and uploads performance data to the free Sunny Portal. Historical data is also recorded on the Sunny Portal therefore installers and system owners can keep an eye on the system from anywhere in the world to make sure the solar panels are operating most efficiently. The internet is a great place to share information and critical data such as a solar power system performance should be easy to access, analyze and share to extend the experience of a solar power system after the installation is complete. The data can be access through any standard web browser, which is great because it will work on all types of operating systems. The Sunny Webbox connects to your SMA Sunny Boy through a RS485 cable and gives the solar power system owner the ability to remotely configure the...

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Ice Bear 30 Hybrid Air Conditioner

Have you ever noticed in the rate section of your electric bill that you pay a significantly higher rate per kilowatt hour (kWh) during what the utility calls “peak hours”? If you are on a “Time-of-Use” rate the electric utility company charges you a premium per kWh consumed during hot summer days when everyone is using air conditioners and the demand for electricity is skyrocketing. This peak hour usage accounts for a majority of most peoples annual electric costs, depending on how much you use your air conditioners. Typically air conditioners are the largest load on your electric service, therefore commercializing an efficient air conditioner is the holy grail of energy efficiency. I have wrote about the GreenCore PV Powered Air Conditioner and the AC Sun solar thermal air conditioners in the past, although the Ice Energy‘s Ice Bear 30 Hybrid Air Conditioner uses Ice, the same type that comes out of our refrigerators as a storage method for cool air. The Ice Bear 30, is a piggy back unit that connects to most air conditioning systems and requires no modification to existing duct work or structure, Ice Bear hybrid A/C unit integrates seamlessly with the conventional 3-10 ton rooftop and split-system air conditioners that cool most light-commercial and residential buildings. Now this is the “cool” part, quite literally. The Ice Bear 30 stores cooling energy at night, when electricity generation is cheaper per kWh, cleaner and more abundant, by freezing water within an insulated storage tank to create and storing cooling capacity for the next day. During the day, the Ice Bear, using the energy stored the previous night to provide cooling by circulating chilled refrigerant from the tank to a modified evaporator coil within the conventional air conditioning system. Ice Energy already has Ice Bear 30 units successfully installed, the company is manufacturing product and setting up their distribution network, which is great to hear because most companies in the “smart air conditioning” space do not yet have a product to offer to the public. You maybe thinking, how is this post related to solar photovoltaic panels or solar energy in general. Well its always better to “Reduce then Produce” as a strategy to get the most out of your solar power system. Many times a solar power system will require too many panels to offset your total usage because your home or business is energy inefficient. Products such the Ice Bear 30 combined with a solar power array could be a very cost effective and reliable application of solar energy production and energy efficiency. What do you...

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