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The U.S.-China Trade Case Determination and What It Means for Solar Installers and Consumers
Jun19

The U.S.-China Trade Case Determination and What It Means for Solar Installers and Consumers

A few months back, we published a post on All You Need to Know About the US-China Solar Trade Dispute and how it might affect solar installers and consumers if the case isn’t settled. Well, a preliminary decision is in. The Department of Commerce (DOC) has made a preliminary determination on June 10th in favor of SolarWorld, the German/U.S. solar panel manufacturer who filed the suit. Before we get into the penalties being proposed and finalized, we should remind readers that there are two parts to this case: Part 1: The DOC Decision The first part, now in the preliminary determination stage, has to do with SolarWorld accusing China of illegally subsidizing its solar panel manufacturers with low interest loans and other cash-related subsidies that allowed Chinese manufacturers to manufacture solar panels and export them to the U.S. (and the rest of the world) at below their actual cost. The 2012 DOC decision determined that was the case and imposed over 23% to 254% in countervailing duties (CVD) on various solar cells made in China. However, Chinese manufacturers got around these tariffs by manufacturing their solar cells in Taiwan and other nearby countries, then assembling the rest of the panel in China. Consequently, this new 2014 DOC preliminary determination now includes solar cells and other basic solar panel materials being made in Taiwan and shipped back to China for assembly and export. So, how much in duties will be tacked on to the price of imported Chinese solar panels? The preliminary CVD varies and depends on the brand: For Suntech solar panels, the tariff is 35.21%. For Trina SolarEnergy, the tariff is 18.56%. For all other Chinese brands, the tariff is 26.89%. That means that the wholesale price of all Chinese-made solar panels coming into the U.S. may be increased by as much as 35.21%, and at the very least, by 26.89%! The DOC will make its final determination by August 18, 2014. But wait, there’s more: Part II: The ITC Decision Remember, we said that there were two parts. Now that the DOC has ruled, their evidence has been handed over to the International Trade Commission (ITC). The ITC is deciding whether China is intentionally overproducing (“dumping”) their artificially inexpensive Chinese solar panels on the U.S. market in order to flood the U.S. solar market, forcing SolarWorld to lower their prices to compete. The ITC previously said this was the case in the earlier 2012 decision, so most industry analysts think they’ll do so again, but now include solar panels and cells from Taiwan. Should the ITC rule in favor of SolarWorld again, then additional antidumping duties may...

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Texas $2 per Watt Rebate?
Nov27

Texas $2 per Watt Rebate?

Coserv’s $2 per Watt Rebate If you’re one of the 141,000 member-owners of the  Coserv Electric Cooperative in Texas and you’re thinking about going solar, you’re smart. You might have heard that this co-op utility offers a $2 per DC Watt rebate on solar generation. $2 per Watt? This rebate means homeowners in Texas can get $2 per DC Watt installed.  Many solar rebates are based on the size of the solar system in AC Watts,  which is a measurement of the system after the electricity has been converted from DC to grid-quality AC power.  A $2/ AC Watt rebate would already be a very strong incentive, but this rebate is in DC, which means more money in your pocket. $2/W DC  >  $2/W AC For example:  you’re installing a 2kW (or 2,000W) grid-tied solar system.  That number “2kW” is based on the sum total of watts in your solar system – we’ll call it eight 250W solar panels. In this case, you would qualify for a rebate of $4,000, given that the funds allocated towards this rebate program haven’t yet been exhausted. Depending on the size of your system, this  rebate your 2 kW (or 2000 Watt) solar system will yield a couple hundred dollars more. This utility rebate program caps off at $5,000 for each system, which is equal to a 2.5kW solar system.  Contact us today for solar design help and while you’re at it, fill out the Coserv solar rebate application form.  All 2013 funds were reserved in early 2013.   Check their website at the beginning of 2014 for any changes to this rebate and get on the list so they can reserve funds for your project.   Rebates are paid out after your solar system is installed and inspected by a Coserv Auditor. On top of this rebate from Coserv, you’ll also qualify for the Federal Tax Credit.   After any state/local/utility rebates have been subtracted (including Coserv’s solar rebate), 30% of this net cost is returned to you in the form of a tax credit that directly reduces the dollar amount you pay on your taxes....

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Quick Look at STC vs. PTC Ratings
Sep17

Quick Look at STC vs. PTC Ratings

What’s the differnce between STC & PTC? Looking at the specifications for a solar panel, you’re going to see two distinct ratings:  STC and PTC, both of which refer to DC (direct current) Watts of the solar panel. STC rating Standard Test Conditions, or STC ratings, are the solar panel’s name plate value.  This means that if it’s a Sharp ND-250QCS, 250 Watt solar panel, the STC rating is 250 Watts.   STC ratings reflect the solar panel’s production in ideal conditions, which is actually a flash of light shot at the solar panel in a lab environment. PTC rating When you’re looking to get an idea of PV output, PTC ratings are a more realistic number to look at.   PTC ratings, or PVUSA (Photovoltaics for Utility Systems Applications) Test Conditions, show the results from a test that more closely mimics real-world conditions.  PTC ratings are based on 1,000 Watts per square meter of solar irradiance at 10 meters above ground level, at 20 degrees Celsius, and with a wind speed of 1 meter per second. As seen in the image above, the Sharp ND-250QCS, 250W solar panel has a PTC rating of 223.6 Watts.  If you were using these solar panels for your photovoltaic system, using the PTC rating of 223.6W to estimate output would provide a more accurate, “real-world” number than the STC rating of 250W. Keep in mind that there are still other factors that will effect PV output.   There will usually be some energy loss via wires, inverters, etc.  There’s also normal degradation of solar panels over time and environmental factors such as soiling (dirt), heat, and shading....

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What’s the optimal angle for my solar panels?
Aug08

What’s the optimal angle for my solar panels?

Enter in your country, state, and city to calculate the optimum tilt of your solar panels every month. The optimal angle varies throughout the year, depending on the seasons and your location and this calculator shows the difference in sun height on a month-by-month basis.  For even more precise angling, you would need to track the sun as it moves throughout the day on a minute-by-minute basis.  This can be accomplished with an automated mechanical solar tracker, but unfortunately this is not very economical. The sun reaches its peak at solar noon each day (exactly half way between sunrise and sunset) and this calculator shows the angle at that time of day. At solar noon, the irradiance from the sun is at its zenith and you can generate the most energy. As an example, the sun is due south at solar noon in the northern hemisphere.  To get the best performance out of your photovoltaic panels, you would face them due south at the optimum angle so that the panel is receiving as much sunlight as possible at this time. The best angle for your solar project also depends on when you want to get the best out of your photovoltaic system. If you want the best performance during the summer months (when there is the most sunlight), you would angle your photovoltaic panels according to the height of the sun in the sky during these months. If you have the ability to adjust your photovoltaic panels throughout the year, you will benefit from having the optimum performance from your solar system all of the time. If you like this calculator please...

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All-New Enphase M250 Microinverter!
Jul09

All-New Enphase M250 Microinverter!

Enphase Energy, the world’s leader in solar microinverter technology, used Intersolar North America 2013 as a platform to launch their latest generation microinverter:  Enphase M250 The company’s first generation microinverter, the Enphase M175 is considered to be the world’s first commercially successful microinverter. The M175 was followed by the Enphase M190 microinverter, which has built-in trunk cables and is compatible with both 60 and 72-cell solar modules. Unlike the first two generations, the Enphase M215 microinverter featured a single mounting bracket and an improved cabling system, allowing up to 17 microinverters per branch circuit instead of 15 with the Enphase M190. The Enphase M215 is a lightweight microinverter designed for 60-cell solar modules. Enphase M215 has a maximum output of 215W AC – with a 96.5% CEC efficiency rating. It also features a single-bolt bracket for dramatically simplified installation, which has been passed on to the 4th Generation Enphase microinverter, the M250.  What’s different about the Enphase M250? Though its design appears to be nearly identical to the Enphase M215, the Enphase M250 microinverter is rated at 250W AC, meaning it’s compatible with solar panels up to 300W. But the key improvement to this model is that the M250 DC circuit already meets grounding requirements (NEC 690.35) because it’s isolated and insulated from the ground.  This improvement means that when you’re installing a Enphase M250s, you won’t need additional Grounding Electrode Conductor (GEC) in between each microinverter (copper). This not only simplifies installation, but enhances safety while saving material and labor costs. The Enphase M250 microinverter comes with comes with the industry standard 25-year warranty.  The Enphase M250 is rated at 96.5% CEC efficiency- the highest efficiency for microinverters available.  Like the M215, it’s also NEMA 6 rated for severe temperatures and humidity. When using Enphase microinverters (and an Envoy communications gateway), you can monitor the production of your system remotely with a web-based software called Enlighten.  The newest Envoy can handle up to 500 microinverters – or 100kW. Enphase now offers Enlighten in two versions of the software: Enlighten Manager for solar professionals to maintain the systems they’ve installed, and MyEnlighten for system owners to monitor the output of their systems. We’re excited to get some of these microinverters on some roofs. Check out the specification sheet for the Enphase M250!...

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