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World’s Oldest Solar Power Plant
Jun27

World’s Oldest Solar Power Plant

When it comes to having the “world’s oldest”…well, anything, California doesn’t hold many distinctions.     Somewhere hidden in the state’s White Mountains there’s a 5,068 year old tree that’s the world’s oldest bristlecone pine.   and somewhere in Downey there’s the world’s oldest McDonald’s. But conifers and Big Macs aside, California also has the distinction for housing the world’s first and oldest solar power plant, which was built way back in 1985. Owned and built by NextEra Energy Resources, the 354 MW facility houses nine operational solar plants, with the newest being completed in 1990. It facility covers 1,600 acres and houses nearly a million parabolic mirrors. According to NextEra, it can power over 230,000 homes during peak energy production. The plants, which are referred to as Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS), use panels that are different than the more commonly used photovoltaic ones, which transfer and store energy into batteries. Instead, the SEGS use mirrors that are 94% reflective (compared to typical mirrors with a 70% reflection rate) to direct the sun to heat a synthetic oil called Therminol. The focused light is nearly 80 times more powerful than normal sunlight. The heated oil then super-heats water, producing steam to power a turbine. The plant is estimated to displace about 3,800 tons of pollution per a year, which, when added up over the decades is a savings of about 60,000 tons of waste. So next time you’re driving through the Mojave desert and want to make a historical pit stop, check out the oldest solar fields in the world. And be sure to bring your sunglasses!...

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5 Ways To Prepare For Solar
Jun16

5 Ways To Prepare For Solar

In the same way you’d tape off areas before painting a room, or stretch before running a marathon, there’s some steps you can take to prepare your house before switching to solar.     X2 check permitting guidelines   Often times the most difficult part of converting to solar is dealing with local regulations and permitting processes. Most city utility companies require the following documentation before installation can begin: Level 1 interconnection Application and Agreement for inverter-based generating systems Electrical diagram of proposed generating system Specifications of inverter Application for electrical service (if you’re going to use meters) If you’re the do-it-yourself type of person, perhaps the best place to spend money on outside help is on a solar design and permit service. Municipalities are not known for their speed, and a red-flagged permit takes longer to get through the second time than the first. Also, it makes sense that you know the rules before you play the game. In some cases you might even uncover hidden rebates or government incentives.     Make sure your roof can handle the weight   Consult with a building inspector or engineer to determine the maximum load that is safe to put on your roof. Solar arrays can be heavy, and the weight of these plus any racking systems and microinverters can add up. So think of this maximum load number as Gandolf…     …and make sure to tally up the weight of every item you install.   3) Check your roof’s condition Any repairs you’ll need to make to your roof after installation will require the removal of the solar panels. Make roof repairs before adopting solar energy and don’t cut corners on using the best materials. Saving a few dollars in the short run could end up costing you thousands down the road.   4) Plan your angle of attack In the northern hemisphere most panels are mounted on south-facing roofs to capture the maximum amount of sunlight. If you have a roof with an east or west orientation you or an installer will need to position the array at optimal angles. If it’s too flat it will collect water and if it’s too tilted you’ll miss out on precious rays of power. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the United States Department of Energy has helpful guidelines on how to optimally angle your array.   5) Build a Sun Cabinet Call it a utility storage nook or sun cabinet–we just like the fancy name–but build or designate a closed space to house all your solar equipment. Batteries, inverters, Balance of System (BOS) modules all help enhance a home’s...

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4 things you might not know about solar
Jun12

4 things you might not know about solar

1) Solar Panels Work in Cloudy Weather Don’t believe us, just ask someone from Germany, which is one of the world’s leading markets for solar. This cold climate country, along with some of its scandinavian neighbors has shown that solar can thrive even in cold climates. But of course, if you’ve ever gotten burnt on a grey day, you’d already know the sun doesn’t stop working just because of some clouds.   2) Solar panels don’t require much maintenance Yup, with no moving parts, and robust hardware, it’s rare that a PV system will fail within the lifecycle of its 25 year warranty. Some homeowners care for their panels by giving them an annual cleaning, but some don’t even do this. Why lift a finger when the rain or snow can do the job for you? Solar monitoring software allows users to spot drops in power generation immediately, so if a large piece of debris falls on one of the panels, it’s easy to locate. In some cases the panels have even been known to improve the strength of the roof:   3) These surprising statistics More than half the united states solar panels have been installed within the last three years The amount of solar energy that hits Texas each month is equal to the entire amount of energy ever produced by oil and gas, according to CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Rhone Resch. The amount of solar energy that hits the world every minute is enough to meet its power needs for a year.   4) Solar is more cost effective than fossil fuels At first look it might appear that the fossil fuel per a KW hour cost is cheaper than solar, but in some areas, a combination of federal, state and local incentives can slash up to 60% off the cost of a home PV installation. Additionally since conventional energy is a limited resource and the cost is guaranteed to rise, locking in a net-metering rate now is an easy way to stabilize future finances. Unlike fossil fuels, solar pays for itself within 7-15 years once it is installed, usually bringing in two to four times their worth in savings on electricity bills. Indeed The Wall Street Journal has shown that to install a new coal or nuclear plant today, would be less cost effective than encouraging homeowners to switch to solar, since the plants are so expensive to fund:     And then there’s all the nasty health and environmental side effects of fossil fuels, which, when considered in calculating its per KW hour cost make its price-tags more than double....

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Why home solar works better than solar power plants
May27

Why home solar works better than solar power plants

If you’re thinking about making the switch to clean energy, but are waiting for a community solar farm to pop up in your area or a utility company to construct a massive project that harvests the sun, might want to think again.   But first, let’s talk about Blockbuster. Remember them? That blue and yellow chain of video rental stores that could be found in nearly every suburban neighborhood in the 90s?     Yeah, I barely do, either. And that’s because when the internet changed the way people consumed movies, the behemoth company stubbornly refused to shift its model of distribution.     With the conversion rates of people switching to solar becoming more common across the globe, we’ve begun to notice a similar flub on the part of large scale solar production plants.      While these grand undertakings are exponentially better for the environment than their carbon emitting alternatives, recent problems with such projects prove the energy source is much better suited to be captured by autonomous individuals than in concentrated areas on large tracts of land.   This past March a sector of Ivanpah, one of the world’s largest solar power plants, emphasized this point as it went up in flames.     With nearly 200,000 sets of focused mirrors superheating steam to generate electricity and tons of small moving parts, it was a difficult (and expensive) project to keep running smoothly. Add to this the sprawling 3,500 acres of land it takes to house the plant and you’ve racked up a bill costing nearly 20 cents per a kilowatt hour.   Photovoltaic home solar systems on the other hand are much more scalable, only require rooftops or backyards as necessary real estate and have the advantage of making electricity where it is used–reducing its kilowatt per hour cost down to 6 cents or less.   When it comes to solar, it’s not hard to imagine a future where the outdated energy production models of the 20th century have gone the way of Blockbuster, and the companies that come out on top are the ones that shift their thinking about how the public produces, access and consumes electricity....

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Roof Mount Innovations
May19

Roof Mount Innovations

Pigeon coops, gardens, athletic facilities and power generation–over the last century, roof tops have seen a diversification of uses in addition to their job of keeping out nasty weather. When it comes to mounting solar panels on your roof, it’s important to keep in mind its original function, and make sure any new additions don’t stop it from completed its first and foremost job. Staving off the elements is no easy task–sun, rain and wind can damage even the toughest of materials over time, which is why heavy duty shingling and tar are commonly prefered for their robust qualities. Drilling holes to mount solar panels into a roof can compromise the material’s integrity and, sometimes, using the proper mounting technique is not enough. New age solar mounting technology and hardware like those made by our industry favorite, IronRidge anticipate the bad weather a system is likely to encounter and include subtle design features that make a huge difference. The IronRidge FlashFoot attachment, which holds racking mounts to a roof, uses a patented bushing that snuggly compresses into an L-foot cavity. This seal creates a dual shield with complete protection against water intrusion. This small design tweak eliminates the need for depending on caulking, which will eventually dry up, crack and cause leaks. Additionally, the 12 inch flashing support squares that support the attachment have an elevated platform to control watershed so water doesn’t pool up.     The innovation continues with the IronRidge Mounting RX system, which has a curved shape to resist the vertical and lateral pressures that panels might incur due to high winds. Previously, the industry standard was to use flush roof supports and shape the rails square at 90 degrees. Small design design changes such of as these can lead to thousands of dollars in savings on eventual roof repairs.   As the industry continues to grow and mounts become more common, no doubt even more innovations will occur helping our roofs evolve to become one of the home’s most useful...

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